40K Lore: Ahriman

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Today Loremasters we must speak quietly of the master sorceror of the Thousand Sons – Ahriman. Be quick lest he overhear our whispers.

Ahzek Ahriman is a Chaos Space Marine of the Thousand Sons Space Marine Legion and the greatest Sorcerer they have ever produced.

Terran marine, Ahriman rose through the ranks of his legion to become their First CaptainChief Librarian, and preeminent master of one of their psychic disciplines: precognition. Surviving the various battles of the Great Crusade, Ahriman found himself at the centre of the events that would lead to the fall of the Thousand Sons and their collective descent into the clutches of TzeentchChaos God of sorcery and change, during the Horus Heresy. His actions after the Heresy – particularly creating and enacting the great spell that bears his name – would result in his eventual banishment from the Legion he had spent most of his existence trying to safeguard. His current status is that of wanderer, apparently fated to quest for something never achievable; understanding of the nature of Tzeentch itself.

Despite the nature of his doom, Ahriman has embraced his quest totally, and no bastion of knowledge in the entire galaxy can be considered safe from his rapacious intellect.

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Early History

Ahzek Ahriman was born on Terra, among the wealthy tribes of the Achaemenid Empire, whose kings had allied with the Emperor during the Unification Wars early. Because of this alliance, Ahriman’s tribes were largely spared the horrors of the atomic wars and proto-Astartes invasions of the Unification period. Following the Emperor’s victory and Terra’s alliance with Mars, Ahriman and his twin brother Ohrmuzd were selected to be inducted into the ranks of the Legiones Astartes. The Ahriman brothers traveled to the stars alongside the Emperor and his legions as part of the Great Crusade, but five years into the expedition the Thousand Sons legion began manifesting psychic abilities, and with the manifestations began the terrible flesh-changes. Over time, the problem became so severe that many voices throughout the Imperium began suggesting that the Thousand Sons be disbanded. However, when the Crusade reached Magnus upon Prospero not long after, the Primarch of the Thousand Sons was seemingly able to eradicate the threat of the flesh-change; although only a fraction of the affected marines survived the mysterious process. One of those who perished was Ohrmuzd Ahriman, whose passing instilled in his twin both great grief and a great dread of the flesh-change. In remembrance of his brother, Ahzek had Ohrmuzd’s pendant (the twin of his own, both gifts from their mother) worked into the shoulder-guard of his  armour.

Ahriman rose to hold the positions of Chief Librarian of the legion, Captain of the First Fellowship, commander of the elite Sekhmet and leader of the legion’s most powerful cult, the Corvidae, all at the same time. Despite this impressive record, little is currently known of the bulk of Ahriman’s career as a legionary. The earliest mention of him is a note of his five years’ secondment to the Word Bearers legion, where he found himself uncomfortable with their expressions of belief in the Emperor’s divinity without a knowledge-base to back it up. Despite this period being one he thought of unhappily, Ahriman did consider that he had become friends with the Word Bearers Astartes named Erebus during it. He is also on record as being in favour of the assignment of remembrancers to the Crusade forces, believing the documenting of his legion as being one way in which the wider body Imperium could learn to understand – and therefore no longer fear – the psyker. The earliest detailed mention of Ahriman in historical records currently known of is during the Aghoru campaign, a compliance action carried out by the Thousand Sons of the 28th Expedition towards the close of the second century of the Great Crusade.

During this campaign, Ahriman is noted to have risked his Primarch’s displeasure by leading a search team for him after Magnus made himself absent from the legion, despite Magnus’ prior insistence that he was not to be disturbed. This is the first time he is known to have both mistrusted the judgement of his Primarch and ignored his wishes. Towards the end of the campaign, when a contingent of Space Wolves arrived to convey a message to Magnus from Leman Russ, Ahriman found himself falling into an association with the Space Wolf Rune Priest Othere Wyrdmake, during which he shared information on the Thousand Sons’ psychic disciplines in what he thought was a meeting of like-minded individuals, but which would later prove treacherous. His perceived fledging kinship with the Rune Priest proved helpful however, when both the Space Wolves and the Thousand Sons were forced to engage in combat with xenos weaponforms and hostile denizens of the warp before leaving Aghoru.

Around this time, Ahriman was charged with inducting the remembrancer Lemuel Gaumon into the ways of the Thousand Sons by Magnus the Red, in an overt attempt to develop Gaumon’s own psychic abilities and help spread understanding of Magnus’ philosophies. Ahriman took Gaumon on as his Probationer, and spent a significant amount of time illuminating and training the remembrancer throughout the period leading up to the Burning of Prospero. This training included taking Gaumon along on combat missions during the pacification of Heliosa, where Ahriman was present for the return of the flesh-change in his legion and the execution of the afflicted Thousand Son by the Space Wolf Primarch, Leman Russ. The return of the flesh-change to the Thousand Sons after Magnus had previously promised that he had banished its danger forever made a deep impact on Ahriman, his feelings of dread at the possibility of mutation and hurt betrayal caused by his Primarch’s inability to protect the legion being so strong that Gaumon was able to detect them.

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Heresy Era

Ahzek Ahriman is next recorded being present at two of the most important historical events of this time period; the Triumph of Ullanor at which Horus was made Warmaster and the Council of Nikaea, at which the Emperor outlawed the use of psychic powers within the Legiones Astartes. To Ahriman the Council of Nikaea felt more like a trial of the Thousand Sons, and his sense of angry betrayal and disillusion at the turn of events was made all the more keen by the fact that the first person to step forth and accuse the Thousand Sons of malign practices was his supposed ally and colleague, Othere Wyrdmake. Compounding this emotional turmoil, it was also at this time that Ahriman discerned that Magnus was not only aware of great powers within the Warp, but that he may previously have struck some kind of ‘bargain’ with them in order to halt the predations of the flesh-change upon the Thousand Sons. Aghast at the revelation, Ahriman’s ability to trust Magnus was shaken – though Magnus removed the details of the bargain from his Chief Librarian’s mind before Ahriman could puzzle it all out.

Ahriman is next spoken of in a another strained meeting with his Primarch, as Magnus unveiled his own discernment, that of the upcoming fall of Horus upon Davin. Ahriman, along with the other senior figures of the Thousand Sons, was enlisted in aiding Magnus in his attempt to psychically protect Horus. In the aftermath of his subsequent failure, Magnus explained to Ahriman that he had been thwarted by agents of something he did not know of or understand called the Primordial Annihilator…however Ahriman once again realised his Primarch was lying to him and that Magnus not only knew of this ‘Annihilator’, this ‘Chaos‘, he had dealt with it before. Rocked by these uncertain events and desperate to learn of the future, Ahriman authorised the ‘super-charging’ of the precognition power of the remembrancer Kallista Eris, attached to the Thousand Sons. While she was able to deliver a prophecy to Ahriman’s waiting ears, she also died – literally burnt out – in the process. Ahriman’s sanction of the death of an innocent prompted Lemuel Gaumon to turn his back upon his mentor, ending both his training and their friendship. Magnus similarly cast about for direction at this time and similarly, made a questionable moral choice – he decided to use sorcerous techniques to attempt to contact the Emperor directly and communicate to him the news of Horus’ betrayal and the machinations of Chaos; Ahriman was selected to help him enact the spell – thus learning of the existence of daemons – and to guard Magnus’ mortal body during the process. Again, in the the aftermath of failure, Ahriman discerned that Magnus was keeping knowledge from him and the Legion; this time learning not only the truth behind the cessation of the flesh-change – Magnus’ striking a sorcerous deal with a power of the Warp to save his children – but also why he and the other Corvidae had been unable to predict an incoming retributive attack on Prospero…Magnus, in his grief and shame, had prevented it.

Finally at his first great breaking point with his Primarch, Ahriman angrily refused to follow Magnus’ order to stand down and await punishment, instead declaring:

“We are the Red Sorcerers of Prospero, damned in the eyes of our fellows, and this is to be how our story ends, in betrayal and bloodshed. No…you may find it nobler to suffer your fate, but I will take arms against it.”

And with that the Chief Librarian of the legion turned the Thousand Sons away from Magnus’ design and led them in the desperate defence of their homeworld in the doomed battle that would come to be known as the Burning of Prospero. Though he knew much knowledge would be lost or destroyed during the battle, Ahriman vowed to restore all of it, no matter the cost. Recognising that, despite all their powers and strategies, there was only one person on Prospero who could decisively alter the fate of the Thousand Sons, Ahriman regularly implored Magnus to come to his Sons’ aid during the battle; Magnus did not acquiesce. With signs and portents of the end building up all around him – as well as finally achieving understanding of a vision he had recieved on Aghoru concerning the fate of his legion and their works – Ahriman issued orders for the surving legionaries to mount a last stand defence, while he attempted the kind of unorthodox tactic only available to the Thousand Sons.

Sensing Othere Wyrdmake’s presence in the approaching horde of Space Wolves, Ahriman made psychic contact with him, dragging him into the aetheric plane to confront him there. The two psykers duelled for a time, before Ahriman eventually gained the upper hand, using the opportunity to link minds with Wyrdmake and ‘dump’ the truth of the matter into the consciousness of the Space Wolf. Wyrdmake learned it all – Horus’ betrayal, the setting-up of the Thousand Sons and Space Wolves and the mistakes that had led them to this point. Returning both himself and the dazed Wyrdmake to the mundane dimension (but still keeping their minds free of their bodies), Ahriman paused to look around the battlefield, witnessing Leman Russ kill Thousand Sons by the score and the Space Wolves’ mindless destruction of all that he cared about. In a moment’s reflection upon vengeance, instead of releasing Wyrdmake (and therefore potentially allowing the Rune Priest to spread his newly acquired knowledge of the truth behind the conflict to his fellows), Ahriman spitefully cast Wyrdmake’s soul to the waiting void-predators of the Warp. Returning to his material body, Ahriman chose to fatalistically accept the consequences of his action, believing his own imminent death and that of all his legion was now inevitable.

This belief was proved false, however, when Magnus the Red finally chose to enter the fray, entering a duel with Leman Russ that stilled the battlefield, allowing Ahriman to pull the remaining Thousand Sons back to Great Pyramid of Tizca. There, he learned that Magnus, while unsure of his own fate, had forseen that Ahriman would survive this day and so had bequeathed to him the Book of Magnus, the Primarch’s own tome of collected knowledge and incalculable sorcerous power. In psychic communication with him even as he fought the Wolf-King, Magnus instructed Ahriman to do one last thing for him, and to receive one last gift; as Magnus fell, he transmitted a huge burst of his own aetheric power into Ahriman, using the Chief Librarian as a psychic and sorcerous conduit to all the surviving legionaries. Used as a vessel for Magnus’ great spell, Ahzek Ahriman and all the other Thousand Sons vanished from Prospero.

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The Rubric

Having been transported through the raw Warp itself, Ahriman found himself awakening upon a world that would be dubbed the Planet of Sorcerers, where he was reunited with the survivors of his legion and – now transformed into a being of aetheric energy – Magnus the Red himself. Ahriman’s next actions – and the details of his participation in the Horus Heresy – are not currently known, but what is recorded is his decision to enact his own, now infamous, master spell.

Witnessing the survivors of his Legion continue to suffer the flesh-change, Ahriman determined to free himself and his brethren from its threat. Using the Book of Magnus and enlisting the aid of a cabal of senior surviving members of the legion including Hathor MaatAmon and Sobek, Ahriman conceived a spell that aimed to permanently rid the Thousand Sons of the curse of the flesh-change.

The result of this so called ‘Rubric of Ahriman‘, while imperfect, is said to have satisfied Ahriman in its consequence. In essence, it turned all the warriors without psychic abilities into mindless automata, and greatly amplified the abilities of all who had more then a spark. Ahriman was a veteran Thousand Son from before the coming of Magnus the Red, and Ahriman’s revulsion at the corruption of the Legion was so great that even the terrible price of reversing it was not too high.

Magnus was not of like mind, however. So great was his wrath when the cabal was discovered that the Primarch threatened to obliterate them utterly, but the very patron who had worked the mutations upon them in the first place was said to have intervened. Who can say what the most enigmatic and capricious of entities intended? In any event, the Daemon Prince stayed his hand, instead banishing Ahriman and his cabal from the Planet of Sorcerers and condemning them to wander the Eye of Terror and beyond in a hopeless quest to understand the Chaos god Tzeentch.

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Exile

When Ahriman was Exiled, at first he served master to master, trying to cling on to what life he had left. However when confronted by his past he destroyed his Brother Amon who was attempting to kill him and took up the Army and fleet he had built up during his entire time in exile and formed his own warband, the Prodigal Sons. Ahriman eventually agreed to form an alliance between the Prodigal Sons and Abaddon the Despoiler and his Black Legion.

Now across the ensuing millennia he has become a scourge, raiding ancient museums, librarium, scholaria and reclusia, places of learning, religion and contemplative thought. He seeks to acquire artifacts, data, or even persons he believes can lead him to mastery over the way of the sorcerer. He fosters cults on dozens of worlds at a time, providing cult magi with sorcerous power until such time as they have acquired some antiquarian trinket or satisfied another of Ahriman demands before turning the wrath of his warband upon them. Notably, he went out of his way to locate and acquire the lost and otherwise forgotten writings of Mahavastu Kallimakus, personal remembrancer to Magnus the Red during the Great Crusade.

Learn More of Ahzek Ahriman

Lexicanum

“The only good is knowledge and the only evil is ignorance.” ~Ahriman

  • Horus84cmd

    I swear this is, like, the 4 or 5th the “history of Ahriman” has be placed on here as an “article”….

    • ZeeLobby

      These are definitely one of the weird things they do here. I mean maybe it’s for new players who haven’t spent days of their life reading Lexicanum pages? (It’s crazy how far you can go down the rabbit hole on that site)

      • petrow84

        Ikr! ‘Let’s read about Ahriman!’
        – an hour and a half later –
        ‘My god, there’s a mechanics sub-faction, called Landists!’

        • euansmith

          I’ll see you Lexicanum, and raise you TV Tropes. There is a real bottomless rabbit hole. 😉

        • ZeeLobby

          It’s one thing you really miss when you go to play other game systems. I’d kill for an equivalent for Warmahordes.

          • petrow84

            Thing is, there’s probably enough source material for that, there’s just no one who would type it all in. On the bright side, we’ve got battlecollege.

  • memitchell

    The vast majority of fictional characters in all genres have have much more simple stories. This convoluted, overblown backstory is emblematic of the bloat that is 40K. Thirty years of author after author, designer after designer adding details to the same characters and events turns molehills into mountains.

    • euansmith

      I guess that, for the societies involved, this is big, creation-myth level stuff; like the Alamo. To most citizens of the Imperium, though, this will be insignificant to their day-to-day lives; even if it wasn’t forbidden knowledge.

    • ZeeLobby

      Eh, I don’t mind the crazy backgrounds so much. I wish they’d introduce new characters though. The Dark Eldar archons in the last book were amazing, and then they stripped all of them out. I hope 8ths advancement of the story line lets some new blood in (and or removes some old). There is an issue where once a character has been written about in 10+ books they tend to become overly convoluted.