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Literature / Watchers of the Throne

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Badass and fabulous.
We were His companions, once. We were the ones in whom He confided. We were His counsellors, we were His artisans. We were the first glimpse at what the species could become, if shepherded aright and unshackled from its vicious weaknesses.

Watchers of the Throne is a series of Warhammer 40K novels by Chris Wright. They take place at roughly the same time as the game's "Gathering Storm" campaign, which advanced the plot of the setting. Currently, the series is comprised of:

  • The Emperor's Legion
  • The Regent's Shadow

As the Thirteenth Black Crusade slowly pushes its way into the distant star system of Cadia, the High Lords of the Imperium play their politics as usual. Some among them, however, are coming to realize that this war will be worse than anything to have come before. Imperial Chancellor Lev Tieron tries to get the Senatorum Imperialis to assemble so that they might send the mighty Custodian Guard into battle; Sister of Silence Tanau Aleya returns to her convent to find it destroyed; and Shield-Captain Valerian of the Custodians finds himself on the Palace walls just as the whole planet seems to go mad.

Tropes featured:

  • Action Girl: Tanau Aleya is an Anti-Magic-wielding demon slayer, as are her fellow Sisters of Silence.
  • All for Nothing: In The Emperor's Legion, Tieron's efforts to assemble the High Lords to free the Custodes to operate outside the palace ultimately amount to naught. The proposition is about to get voted down when the Days of Blindness strike, and afterwards, Guilliman is in charge and passes the act by himself. Moreover, it turns out that the Custodes have already been operating freely outside the Palace for millennia.
  • Almighty Janitor: The Chancellor of Senatorum Imperialis. On paper, their job is to make sure that all the actually-powerful High Lords meet together on the regular, and to handle the paperwork for said meetings. In practice, they not only have spies in almost every branch of the Palace, but they act as the liaisons and mediators between the Senatorum's various primadonnas, allowing them to influence the politics of the entire Imperium.
  • Amazon Brigade: The Sisters of Silence, an all-female group of blanks (people who have a passive field of Anti-Magic around themselves) trained to battle daemons. They're good enough to fight alongside the Custodian Guard, the Imperium's most powerful Super Soldiers.
  • Amicable Exes: Jek and Tieron are on good terms after breaking off their romance in the second book.
  • And the Adventure Continues: The Regent's Shadow ends with Valerian pursuing Lachrymosa, the last surviving Splintered leader, beyond the Sol System.
  • Awakening the Sleeping Giant: Lev Tieron believes that the Custodes are a Sleeping Giant, as ten thousand Super-Super Soldiers could help swing the balance of battle in favour of the Imperium - if they were allowed outside of the Palace. His plot in The Emperor's Legion revolves around trying to awaken said giant.
  • Back-to-Back Badasses: Valerian and Aleya tend to do that whenever they fight together.
  • Bash Siblings: Aleya and Valerian quickly take to battling the enemies of Mankind together, and their friendship starts in midst of battle.
  • Batman Gambit: In The Regent's Shadow, Trajann Valoris deliberately acts the part of the weak, neutral player in Terran politics to goad Imperium Eterna into showing their faces in the open; then sends Valerian to arrest Aleya, knowing that the Shield-Captain will assist her instead and thus will be in position to fight the Minotaurs and rescue Fadix.
  • Big Bad: In The Regent's Shadow, Irthu Haemotalion, who leads the Imperium Eterna after Guilliman removes him from his position as the Master of the Administratum.
  • Big Damn Heroes:
    • When Aleya and her ship are trying to reach Terra through the Warp, they're rescued by Navradaran's ship, which has been assembling the Sisters of Silence.
    • During the battle for the Imperial Palace, the Sisters of Silence dropship arrives just as the Custodians are starting to be overwhelmed by daemons.
    • Much later, Valerian gets to repay the favour by rescuing Aleya and her team from the Minotaurs.
  • Big Good: Trajann Valoris, the Captain-General of the Custodes and Valerian's commander. While his motives are often obscured and he cannot get involved directly so as to avoid playing politics, there's no doubt he's acting in the interest of the Imperium.
  • BFS: When fighting through her destroyed convent, Aleya picks up a giant two-handed sword and uses it henceforth. She gets an even better one in the second book.
  • Blatant Lies: When asked why his Chapter is on Terra, Asterion Moloc claims that they had come there to replenish their gene-seed stocks after their fortress monastery was attacked and heavily damaged. Jek and Valerian both note that no-one in the room is fooled, as the Chapter is fleet-based and they can see their capital vessel up in the orbit.
  • Blood Knight:
    • In the second book, Valerian finds himself realizing that he enjoys true battle, and can't keep still in the Imperial Palace the way he used to.
    • Aleya relishes each and every opportunity to deal some death to the forces of Chaos.
  • Canon Immigrant: Aleya and Valoris were eventually made into miniatures in the Warhammer 40K tabletop game, with rules that preserve their Bash Siblings dynamic.
  • City Planet: The Holy Terra is essentially one vast city, covered pole to pole in hab blocks, cathedrals and manufactories. This comes to bite them during the Days of Blindness, as with no merchant ships arriving, the whole world begins to starve.
  • Civil War: In The Regent's Shadow, various faction on Terra come into conflict as Guilliman's return throws Imperial politics into total disorder. It comes to a head when Custodes fight and kill a number of Minotaurs, and the Imperial Navy nearly fires on the Imperial Fists' star fort.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The Regent's Shadow has several:
    • The disguised vox that Jek gets from Valerian is later used to tell him to spare Fadix.
    • The misericordia Valerian gives Aleya allows him to track her, letting them meet up just in time for the finale.
    • The twelve missing assassins Jek notices in Assassinorium documents turn up killing off the leaders of the Imperium Eterna.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Pretty much every High Lord whom Guilliman deposes later turns up as an Imperium Eterna agent.
  • The Chessmaster: Valoris, Fadix and Guilliman orchestrated the events of The Regent's Shadow to get rid of the traitorous High Lords.
  • Couldn't Find a Pen: When searching her convent, Aleya finds a message left behind by their astropath, written in blood on his wall, imploring her to come to Terra.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Whenever the Custodes actually get into a fight, they tend to steamroll their enemy; the only time they suffer heavy losses is when demonic forces attack the Palace.
  • Double Agent: In the second book, Fadix openly sides with the Imperium Eterna while covertly setting up assassins to take them out when the time comes.
  • Enemy Civil War: In The Regent's Shadow, the Splintered and the Imperium Eterna come to blows, as the latter were using the former to set themselves up to become a Villain with Good Publicity.
  • Fallen Hero: Underplayed; the leaders of the Splintered are various figures of authority on Terra, like administrators, cardinals, and Arbites leaders, who have used the turmoil on the planet for a power grab when they should've been the planet's first line of defense.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Aleya and Valerian first meet during the battle for the Imperial Palace and immediately begin to fight together; they cement their friendship by making a Last Stand together above Vorlese.
  • First-Episode Spoiler: It's difficult to talk about The Regent's Shadow without mentioning that the Regent in question is Roboute Guilliman, who only appears by the end of the first book.
  • First Person Snarker: As Aleya has always been something of an outsider to the Imperium's structure, her points of view are full of her poking fun at the nation's various insanities.
  • Great Offscreen War: While the story is largely a political drama, there are no less than four different conflicts mentioned as happening offscreen.
    • The Thirteenth Black Crusade is attacking the galaxy, and Tieron's focus thorughout the first book is to free the Adeptus Custodes so that they might assist in the war effort.
    • At one point, Tieron learns about a war over Fenris (itself the focus of "Wrath of Magnus" tabletop campaign), and has to put it aside because of all the other stuff happening. He does try to leverage the news to support his plan to release the Custodes.
    • The Indomitus Crusade is beginning in the background of The Regent's Shadow.
    • When demons attack Terra, the Palace loses contact with the Hollow Mountain, the fortress that hosts the Astronomicon. What happens there is described in The Hollow Mountain, from a different series also by Wright.
  • Hand Signals: As a Sister of Silence, Aleya communicates with others through thoughtmark, a form of sign language.
  • The Heavy: In The Regent's Shadow, the Minotaurs are the most visible antagonist for most of the story.
  • Herald: Tieron's story begins with Kerapliades, the Chief Astropath, visiting him to beg Tieron to arrange for improving Cadia's defences.
  • Hero of Another Story:
    • Navradaran, Valerian's friend, who comes and goes throughout the story and vanishes in the second book. He has a slightly more prominent role in Vaults of Terra, another book series running concurrently with Watchers of the Throne, but he clearly has a lot more going on than anyone else sees.
    • Roboute Guilliman makes scant few appearances at the end of the first book and the start of the second before departing to fight a Great Offscreen War, though it's implied he's keeping an eye on things through Valoris.
    • General Harster, who's on Terra to assemble an army to relieve the besieged Cadian system, departs before the plot truly unfolds. And it's unclear what happens to him, given Cadia has already fallen by the time he leaves.
    • The second book features Tor Garadon, an Imperial Fists captain last seen shepherding the remnants of Cadian army in the "Gathering Storm" campaign.
  • Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: While Aleya isn't all that tiny by human standards, she tends to fight alongside Valerian, who, as a Custodian, is almost twice her height.
  • Intimidation Demonstration: When Valerian's team assaults a Splintered stronghold, they approach it in full view, walking slowly and Parrying Bullets. Valerian notes that this is both to intimidate their enemies and to awe their allies.
  • Karma Houdini: Not counting their losses in the battle with the Custodes, the Minotaurs are never punished for siding with Imperium Eterna, despite the fact that assaulting the Custodians would spell death for any other Chapter.
  • Kill It with Fire: Aleya starts the story wielding a heavy flamer, though she quickly swaps it out for a BFS.
  • Last Stand: The Emperor's Legion ends with a small team of Custodians and Sisters of Silence holding the Chaos Astartes from launching a blackstone pillar into the planet Vorlese, which would cut Terra off from insterstellar travel. Both Aleya and Valerian survive, though few others do.
  • Lower-Deck Episode: The series serves as this to the Gathering Storm campaign, showing what's happening in the background of the epic events at Cadia and Ultramar.
  • Insistent Terminology: Aleya prefers the term Anathema Psykana to Sisters of Silence, as she finds it more descriptive.
  • Just Toying with Them: Discussed in The Regent's Shadow: as Valerian fights his first Primaris Space Marine, he notes that he really wishes he could toy with the newcomer for a while to figure out his capabilities, but alas, circumstances mean he must go all out and Curb Stomp him.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Several people note that in his determination to release the Custodes, Tieron is acting extremely unlike his usual self. Some suggest that he simply found a cause worth fighting for, while others wonder if the Emperor isn't acting through him. Tieron himself is unsure.
  • Na├»ve Newcomer: When Valorian says that the Minotaurs are trustworthy because they serve the Imperium, Captain Garadon is stunned.
    Tor Garadon: Hells, you are a child, Custodian. You have not been out in the void for too long. This war has created monsters, and not all are in the camps of the enemy.
  • Not in This for Your Revolution: Despite supporting the Reform Council, Fadix freely admits to Jek that he disagrees with everything about their views, and simply wishes to avoid a civil war that would break already-fragile Terra. He also believes that Guilliman will eventually come to support Static Tendency, his own faction.
  • Obstructive Code of Conduct: The Edict of Restraint forbids the Custodes from leaving the Imperial Palace (at least openly, as Custodes have always been coming and going from the Palace in secret). Tieron's goal in The Emperor's Legion is to have it repealed so that the Legion can be committed to the defense of Cadian Gate.
  • Odd Friendship: Valerian considers his and Aleya's frienship to be this. He's an immortal Custodian thousands of years old, Brainwashed to have no strong emotions except absolute loyalty to the Emperor; she's a firebrand Sister of Silence whose nature as a blank means she has trouble with any interpersonal interactions. They make it work anyway.
  • Overly Long Name: As the Custodes are awarded new names for various achievements both in and out of combat, most seasoned Custodians have dozens, if not hundreds of them. Valoris is said to have at least a thousand.
  • Parrying Bullets: Custodians can move their Guardian Spears quick enough to deflect bullets. While their armour is likely to withstand whatever the enemy throws at them, they use it as an intimidation technique.
  • Praetorian Guard: Though not in a bodyguarding capacity, anybody who's familiar with the Minotaurs knows that it's an open secret that they function as the High Lords' enforcers, doing their dirty work and enforcing their will. Due to the High Lords' influence, the Minotaurs are both incredibly well-equipped for a chapter, even gaining acess to Primaris marines not long after they debuted while most of them were going on crusade with Guilliman, and are given a lot of leeway in how they conduct themselves, even though they have earned a reputation for brutality that can rival the Flesh Tearers and commit outright betrayal of fellow Imperial forces if it means acheiving their strategic goals.note 
  • Put on a Bus: Lev Tieron retires at the end of the first book, passing his job - and his point-of-view slot - to his assistant, Jek.
  • Refused by the Call: When the leader of the Companions (the Custodians who watch over the Emperor directly) has prophetic dreams featuring Valerian's name, they both assume that this is The Call for Valerian to join the Companions - only for him to be unable to cross the treshold into the throne room. It's implied that the Emperor deliberately pushed him away so that Valerian would go to Vorlese.
  • Rousing Speech: Guilliman gives one at the start of the second book. Only parts of it are shown on-page as it's meant for characters other than Valerian and Aleya, and so neither really listens.
  • Scene of Wonder: When Tieron goes to Luna to investigate the disturbance there, he walks in on the aftermath of the massive battle between the Imperial forces and Chaos, with none other than Roboute Guilliman in the centre. The way he describes it, he sounds like he's losing his mind throughout the whole encounter.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: Valerian makes something of a habit of it, atypically for a Custodian. It's tolerated mostly because things come up his way most of the time.
    • In The Emperor's Legion, he covertly assembles a team of Custodians to accompany Aleya to Vorlese, despite the edict preventing them from leaving the Palace still being in effect.
    • In The Regent's Shadow, Valoris orders him to arrest Aleya or kill her if unable to do so. He ends up assisting her instead. Played with in that Valoris knew that would happen, and Valerian aiding Aleya was part of his plan from the get-go.
  • Sex for Solace: As Days of Blindness wear on, Tieron strikes up a romance with Anna-Murza Jek to cope with the stress. They break it off once the immediate crisis passes.
  • Sole Survivor: Aleya begins the story as the only survivor of her sisterhood. Once she arrives on Terra, she finds that many other Sisters are also last of their own groups.
  • The Soulless: While the actual state of blanks' souls is unclear, Aleya and her covenant believe that their Anti-Magic nature comes from them lacking souls. Unfortunately, the Ecclesiarchy believes the same, and by that token, believes that blanks are monsters who cannot be saved by the Emperor's grace. It's implied that this is why the original Silent Sisterhood was massacred millennia ago.
  • The Speechless: As a Sister of Silence, Aleya has taken a vow to never speak a word. When she has to communicate with others, she does so in Hand Signals, though there are only a few people who can understand it. She lets out a battle cry at the very end of The Emperor's Legion, as she believes she's about to die.
  • Super-Soldier:
    • The Custodes get their focus thorugh Valerian, and it's quickly apparent that they are superior to most Space Marines, even the newfangled Primaris. The only Space Marine Valerian isn't sure about defeating one-on-one is Asterion Moloc, and it's implied that there's more to that one than meets the eye.
    • 40K's standard Super Soldiers, the Space Marines, show up in the form of Ultramarines in the first book, and Imperial Fists and Minotaurs in the second.
  • Two Lines, No Waiting: Three, technically; the chapters cycle between points of view of Tieron, Valerian and Aleya. In The Regent's Shadow, Tieron is replaced by Jek.
  • The Unfought: Asterion Moloc, the Minotaurs' Chapter Master, is hyped up as an extremely deadly warrior, and his men serve as The Heavies throughout the second book, but despite coming within inches of battling Valerian, the new Master of the Administratum convinces him to leave before the two can come to blows.
  • Victory Through Intimidation: When riots come to the walls of the Imperial Palace, Valerian stops the Arbites forces from opening fire, and instead walks out among the mob. The common folks of the Imperium, suddenly confronted by a mythical being over three metres tall, clad in ornate gold armour and holding a giant spear, lets him locate and arrest their leader without any opposition.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: Imperium Eterna's goal in The Regent's Shadow is to become this; by setting up and supporting the Splintered, they "prove" that the Reform Council is unable to keep the peace on Terra, while they swoop in and destroy them.
  • We Are Not Going Through That Again: At the end of The Emperor's Legion, Guilliman offers Tieron the position of his personal remembrancer - basically, a biographer who'd go with him to observe the Indomitus Crusade - as a reward for his services. Tieron decides that he's had quite enough excitement in the past few months, thank you very much, and chooses to comfortably retire instead.
  • We Have Become Complacent: Tieron admits eventually that the nobles of Terra have gotten so used to the fact that in the grim darkness of the far future, there is only war, they have come to think of Great Offscreen War as natural part of the universe, and can't imagine it coming right to their doorstep.
  • Wham Line: The Regent's Shadow ends with one, as Valoris all but admits that Guilliman engineered the entire Imperium Eterna situation to get rid of High Lords who would oppose him.
    Valoris: You may tell him, in that case, that all is well on Terra. You may tell him that all unfolds according to his designs.
  • While Rome Burns: The High Lords are aware of the dramatic situation at Cadian Gate, but most are too preoccupied with jockeying for power between one another, reasoning that this isn't the first time Cadia is under siege. As it turns out, Cadia has most likely fallen by the time of the story, and their failure to act catches up with them midway through The Emperor's Legion.
  • You Can't Go Home Again: Aleya's plotline starts with her returning to her convent only to find it completely destroyed and infested by daemons.