- "These so-called 'Relic Wardens' are a rumour, a myth. They are a riddle wrapped in a conspiracy, and surrounded by an enigma. They don't exist...they can't."
- — Common response when inquiries are made in regards to the mysterious Relic Wardens
The "Relic Wardens" are a mysterious specialist formation that makes up the 10th Company of the Knight Wardens Space Marine Chapter. Their existence can neither be definitively confirmed, nor can it be denied. Over several millennia there have been numerous eye-witness accounts describing mysterious Astartes bearing the livery of the Knight Wardens Chapter, yet these Space Marines bear all manner of sacred relics, and use the most ancient patterns of power armour, relic weaponry and vehicles. Their penchant for the use of such ancient patterns of wargear have earned them the moniker Relic Wardens by those few who have borne witness to these Astartes. Their primary mission is to uncover their Chapter's mysterious origins. But the autonomous 10th Company are dedicated to unearthing the secrets of the past. Their secondary mission is to recover ancient relics of archaeotech and technology thought lost - to preserve, harbour and protect these intrinsically valuable relics for the benefit of all mankind. Most especially, they quest for the ancient heirlooms of the Praetorian of Terra, Rogal Dorn.
- "What is your life?"
"Our honour is our life."
"What is your fate?"
"Our duty is our fate."
"What is it you seek?"
"Firstly, we seek the origins of our Chapter. Secondly, we seek out the lost artefacts and weapons of our Father, Rogal Dorn."
"What is your pledge?"
"Our pledge is eternal service. We shall never waiver in our sacred duty."
- — Grand Knight Marshal Ori Tali conducting the Custos Iuramentum ("The Warden's Oath") during the beginning of the 10th Company's sacred duty
While the Knight Wardens closely adhere to the tenants of the Codex Astartes, there is one thing that stands out above their unusual friendship with several Chapters of the 21st Founding - the mystery of their supposed 10th Company. It is known that the Chapter possess at least 900 Battle-Brothers divided into 9 battle companies to be called upon. But the strange thing about this is the materials they have in their possession. The Chapter has enough recruits, gene-seed and equipment to outfit an entire Chapter comprised of the usual 10 Companies, yet they only possess 9 companies, which is unusual even to the Chapters who they are allied with.
The reason for the 'Relic Wardens', whose existence is not well understood, is that the Knight Wardens do in fact, possess a possible secret 10th Company. The Knight Wardens' gene-seed is not on record, and as such, they wished to know who they were descended from to prevent their Chapter's destruction if it was revealed that their lineage was from a tainted source, or cement themselves as a Loyalist Chapter. Given that the Chapter did not know who they were descended from, Grand Knight Marshal Ori Tali, the Knight Wardens' first Chapter Master, tasked his Chapter's 10th Company with their sacred duty - to discover their Chapter's origins. To help the warriors of the 10th Company on their quest, they were outfitted with the finest relics and technologically advanced wargear and equipment possessed within the Chapter's armoury.
To set them on their way, they were also given information in regards to rumoured ancient military caches believed lost since the time of the Horus Heresy. These were lost storage facilities and vaults of the ancient Imperial Fists Legion. Grand Master Tali revealed that the Emperor granted him a vision, "The Knight Wardens are here to protect the relics of humanity, and to do the Emperor's will." And so, the 10th Company's secondary task would be to uncover the relic weapons and ancient marvels of technology thought lost for all time. They would be the guardians of this recovered technology, providing custodianship of these sacred relics. Due to the secrecy of this momentous undertaking, the 10th Company was sworn to absolute secrecy, and any records regarding their existence were summarily expunged from the Chapter's archives. It would be as if they never existed. The Knight Wardens did this out of a sense of necessity, rather then out of any malicious intent, and over the course of several millennia, the true origins of the Relic Wardens was forgotten.
Nature of the Relic Wardens
- "The 'Relic Wardens' are just one of the many legends of the Imperium. Throughout history there have been many corroborated accounts of these mysterious warriors and their unexpected appearances on the battlefield - bedecked in their ancient panoply of war like warriors of old - and of course, their all-too familiar disappearance at the battle's end."
- — Inquisitor Richter Draven, Ordo Astartes
While some in the Chapter command of the Knight Wardens don't believe that the 10th Company exists, there is ample evidence (which is quite substantial) that they do indeed exist. But why they exist is another matter entirely. Information gathered about by this mysterious Company seems to indicate that they possess information about their Chapter's birth. While the exact date is not known, an ancient and uncorroborated written account from the early 32nd Millennium, indicates that an Inquisitorial representative, accompanied by a small retinue, had a clandestine meeting with the Chapter's first Chapter Master, Grand Knight Marshal Ori Tali. Supposedly the Chapter Master explained that his Chapter's sole duty was to guard the relics of mankind. However, records of this conversation do not show up within any Inquisition archives, meaning that the details of this supposed encounter were either lost or had been purposely redacted or even quite possibly, erased. The nature of this Company is to also seek out and find lost information and technology from before and during the Horus Heresy. For this reason, it is likely that they needed to stay a secret in order to protect their fellow battle-brothers from complicity in their unorthodox and unofficially sanctioned duties.
The Relic Wardens can be said to be some of the most veteran Space Marine formation in the Imperium, as their numbers are made up of the finest of their Chapter. While Administratum officials and Inqusitorial agents have noticed some common behavior with the 10th, which includes working alongside other Imperial forces, they have also been known to work alongside other non-Chaotic forces, which includes various xenos races. While this can be grounds for heresy, there are very few incidents recorded, and of this incidences, very few records exist. Always the Relic Wardens seem to answer to Imperial rule rather than their xenos allies, meaning that they are merely using the xenos for their own ends. There are even rumours amongst the senior most echelons of the Ordo Xenos that the Relic Wardens have been allowed to access to the mysterious Black Library, the Eldar's repository of forbidden lore concerning the Ruinous Powers that exists somewhere within the labyrinthine passages of the Webway. Whether or not these rumours are true or not, has yet to be confirmed.
Throughout their history, the Relic Wardens have been seen on various battle fields but never stay long as their mission is soon completeD. While they do not like to fight, they do not hesitate to do so when the need arises:
- First Contact (224.M34) - First contact with the Relic Wardens occurred in 224.M34 on the world of Ignrum. The planet was devastated after a major Ork incursion. While the Imperial Guard was performing clean-up operations, a mysterious vessel arrived in orbit claiming to be a Knight Wardens' vessel, sent to assist. Thus all attention was dropped. But strangely, contact was soon lost with the mysterious Astartes. Their whereabouts could not be accounted for, nor was there any sign of the Space Marines' position after they made their way down to the planet's surface. When the 34th Cadian Regiment was sent to see what was going on, they came into a combat zone where Space Marines in quartered-blue and silver livery, were fighting Orks. While this wasn't unusual, what could not be ignored were the ancient weapons that these Wardens used - relic weapons ranging from pre-Heresy era bolters to archaeotech weapons of great power. Due to their superior firepower these Astartes lost few of their number as they brutally fought the greenskin army. When they saw the Imperial Guard, they called for immediate pickup and quickly departed the field of battle. When an inquiry was later made by a small Inquisitorial retinue, the one thing that the Imperial Guardsmen consistently repeated time and again - though these mysterious Astartes looked like Knight Wardens Space Marines, their arms and armaments were most unusual. Also unusually, some of the Imperial Guard officers took note that a Knight Wardens Astartes would normally have their squad specialty symbols stenciled boldly on their right pauldrons and their Chapter iconography displayed upon their left one. These particular Astartes had their Chapter emblem on the left, per the Codex Astartes, but a gothic numeral 'X' was stenciled on the right.
- Battle of Haicul (346.M41)- While the Relic Wardens assist the Imperium whenever possible, there is only one notable event known to have been extensively documented by both the Knight Wardens and the Inquisition - the Battle of Haicul. During a relic recovery operation on the Ice World of Haicul, a large Inquisition strike force arrived. The size of this Imperial force was substantial, indicating a Cabal, as they were augmented by Storm Troopers and Imperial tanks. In reality, this group of Inquisitors were the Ordo Hydra - an extremist offshoot of the secret society known as the Illuminati - who were dedicated to the use of extreme measures in order to destroy the existence of Chaos in the universe once and for all. The Inquisitor in-charge offered the Relic Wardens Inquisitonal-status. They would be officially recognised and given carte blanche to seek out and recover whatever relics they wanted. In exchange, the Relic Wardens would give the Inquisition any assistance to look for ways to help them connect and control the masses of humanity as a single hive mind through the use of a psychic "virus", that was in reality, a Warp entity known as the Hyrdra. Once under their control, the Ordo Hydra would unleash a concentrated, collective psychic blow to Chaos within the Immaterium, which in turn would destroy the Dark Gods. The Relic Wardens outright refused, as they were oath-bound to their sacred task, and would not bow down to the yoke of anyone other than the God-Emperor Himself. This enraged the Cabal, which attacked. Upon taking cover, the Relic Wardens tried not to engage the Inquisition forces, as they did not want to be Excommunicated or worse - be eradicated. Fortunately, another mysterious Inquisitor arrived on the planet. She had been tracking the whereabouts of these very same rogue Illuminati elements across the sector. This Inquisitor was, in fact, a part of the 'mainstream' Illuminati who were determined to stop the Ordo Hydra's plan at all costs. The Ordo Hydra's plans could possibly result in the enslavement of much of mandkind, or worse - give rise to the birth of a fifth Chaos God. To avert this disaster, the female Illuminati secretly contacted the Relic Wardens, calling for a parlay. The two sides met, and the Relic Wardens explained the situation to her. After seeing recordings from several of their warriors' helmet heads-up displays, she realised that this Inquisitorial Cabal was one-in-the-same as the rouge group she had been tracking, and ordered the Relic Wardens to engage. The Astartes immediately complied with the female Inquisitor. Knowing that they were severely outnumbered and more importantly, in risk of jeopardising a sacred relic of Dorn, they did what had never been done in all their existence - they contacted their fellow Knight Wardens brethren for assistance. Despite their few numbers, the Relic Wardens engaged the Cabal with their powerful relic weapons. Each warrior of the Relic Wardens furiously engaged the rogue Cabal forces, as they saw them as traitors to the Imperium who had been festering within like a cancer for eons. Now was the time to expunge them from the Emperor's sight. When relic star fortress, the Warden's Gate arrived, the entirety of the Chapter fleet behind them, the Knight Wardens began to engage the Cabal's vessels. Due to recent MK V power armour tests, several Inquisitors where with the arriving Knight Wardens, and agreed to absolve them of all sins for engaging an Inquisitorial Cabal, due to the Inquistors' beliefs that they where in actuality, corrupted by the Ruinous Powers. For the first time in millennia, the Knight Wardens fought as a whole Chapter. The mix of facing an entire Chapter comprised of 1,000 Space Marines, augmented by a high number of Scout Marines, along with the superb tactics and deadly relic weaponry of the Relic Wardens, forced the woefully inadequate forces of the Cabal to quickly surrender. When they did, the Relic Wardens disappeared leaving behind only one of their battle-brothers to testify to the Inquisitors about what had occurred. This testimony, corroborated with the Inquisitor's report, absolved both the Knight Wardens and the Relic Wardens of any guilt. But the Knight Wardens where warned to never speak of this event again and to purge all records of the encounter from their Chapter's databanks. If they ever came face-to-face with the Ordo Hydra again, they were to contact the Inquisition immediately, before engaging.
The Company has it's own personal fleet that is made up of 3 Cruiser class ships. Because of this, the Relic Wardens try to distance themselves from void combat whenever possible, as they do not posses the weapons or resources to fight against a heavier armed opponent.