The Photep was a Gloriana-class Battleship that served as the flagship of Magnus the Red, the Primarch of the Thousand Sons Legion during at least part of the Great Crusade in the late 30th and early 31st Millennia. This flagship led the flotilla of sixty-three warships which comprised the XV Legion's 28th Expeditionary Fleet.
As the expeditionary fleets of the Legiones Astartes pushed ever outwards from the cradle of humanity to reunify the Emperor's realm, the Thousand Sons not only brought new worlds into the Imperial fold, but they gathered a vast repository of information and knowledge from newly encountered worlds. This vast storehouse of information was kept within the vast library archive stacks aboard the Photep.
The Photep is known to have transported the Thousand Sons contingent to the Triumph of Ullanor, where Horus was elevated to the esteemed rank of Warmaster by the Emperor himself, in recognition of his numerous great deeds and outstanding leadership throughout the Great Crusade.
This flagship also transported the Thousand Sons to the historic Council of Nikaea, to determine once and for all whether the use of psychic abilities within the Space Marine Legions should be allowed. Magnus was aboard the Photep when he experienced a revelation in regards to the inevitable destruction of his homeworld of Prospero at the hands of the Space Wolves Legion.
When the inevitable assault of the Space Wolves Legion during the Battle of Prospero was nigh at the start of the Horus Heresy, Magnus sent orders to disperse the XV Legion's fleet, as he had decided not to contest the Emperor's judgment upon him or his Legion. The Photep led the fleet's four battle groups, which made best speed for their destinations.
None of the captains of the fleet's vessels knew the reason for their new orders, but all had been given strict instructions not to unlock their orders until reaching their assigned coordinates.
That such directives left Prospero dangerously undefended was clear to every shipmaster, but none dared disobey a direct command from the Primarch himself.
What orders the Photep received are not known, but the ship later arrived on the Planet of the Sorcerers to join the rest of the Legion in their exile.
Typical of the enigmatic nature of Magnus the Red, on his order the Photep aided the crew of the Loyalist Strike Cruiser Sisypheum during their raid on Luna to secure the Selenar artefact known as the Magna Mater, allowing two members of its Astartes crew to survive and escape with the artefact.
Sanctum of Magnus
One of the primary chambers aboard the Photep was the Sanctum of Magnus. This pavilion was a grand, three-cornered pyramid of polarised glass and gold that shimmered like a half-buried diamond. Opaque from the outside, transparent on the inside, it was the perfect embodiment of the leader of the Thousand Sons. When the Thousand Sons made planetfall on a new world, the Sanctum would be disassembled and then reassembled on the planet's surface.
The air within the Photep's sanctum was cool, a precisely modulated climate that owed nothing to machine control. The floor was a spiral of black and white crystal, each piece hand picked from the Reflecting Caves beneath the city of Tizca on the Thousand Sons' homeworld of Prospero and shaped by Magnus' own hand.
Three Terminators of the Thousand Sons' elite Scarab Occult always stood guard at each corner. Each carried a bladed sekhem staff, and their Storm Bolters were held tightly across the jade and amber scarab design on their breastplates.
Brother Amsu, the XV Legion's Standard Bearer, always stood at the entrance to the pavilion, holding a rippling banner of scarlet and ivory. He would greet and verify the identity of the Rehati, the inner coven of advisors and trusted confidants of Magnus the Red.
The Rehati were drawn from the ranks of the elite Captains of the Thousand Sons' Fellowships to address whatever issues currently concerned the XV Legion. Before allowing one of the Rehati to enter the pavilion, Brother Amsu would use his innate psychic abilities to read their aetheric auras, confirming their identity more completely than any gene-scanner or molecular-reader ever could.
The inside of the pavilion was surprisingly austere. Given the Imperial suspicion over the use of psychic abilities that had surrounded the Thousand Sons since their earliest days, those few mortals lucky enough to be granted an audience with Magnus the Red always expected his chambers to be hung with esoteric symbols, arcane apparatus and paraphernalia of the occult.
Instead, the walls were rippling glass, the floor pale marble quarried from the ventral mountains of Prospero. Carefully positioned black tiles veined with gold formed a repeating geometric spiral that coiled out from the centre.
The Captains of the Legion's Fellowships stood upon the spiral, their distance from the centre but one indication of their standing within the Rehati. Beneath the crystal apex of the pyramid a golden disc in the shape of a radiating sun met the terminations of both black and white tiles, where the Chief Librarian of the Thousand Sons stood at the heart of the gathering.
Magnus the Red stood upon the golden sun. A Thousand Sons warrior's standing in the Legion was not simply measured by his proximity to the centre of the spiral, but by myriad other indicators: the position of the warrior next to him, behind him and across from him. Who was obscured, who was visible, the arc of distance between his position and the sun disc, all played their part in the dance of supremacy within the Rehati and the Legion's hierarchy. Each member’s position interacted subtly with the other, creating a web of hierarchy that only Magnus could fathom.
When the Rehati met within the pavilion, the Primarch employed a unique psychic ability known as the Symbol of Thothmes that would prevent any outsiders from spying on their private conclave. The Primarch would take a golden khopesh from his belt and activate a switch, the haft extending with a smooth hiss, transforming the sickle-sword into a long-bladed polearm.
Magnus then rapped the staff on the sun disc, tracing an intricate, twisting shape on the ground. The world around the gathered coven would go dim and the interior of the pyramid would be shielded from outside eyes. For the Thousand Sons, being cut off from the Immaterium was unpleasant, but no one could eavesdrop within the pyramid by any means, be they technological or psychic as long as the Symbol of Thotmes was active. Magnus had once boasted that not even the Emperor Himself could penetrate the invisible veil cast around the Rehahti by the Symbol of Thothmes.
Like all personal habitats of the Thousand Sons, many of the Battle-Brothers had their own personal chambers located within hermetic domes on the vast starship. These cells were made as places of solitude to allow one to meditate and become one with the Enumerations in private. A notable area of contemplation aboard the Photep was the personal library of the XV Legion's Chief Librarian, Ahzek Ahriman.
The interior of Ahriman's pavilion was a place of calm. Spacious and well-aired, it was a refuge. A walnut bookcase sat beside his bedroll, the books on its shelves like old friends, well-thumbed and read countless times, as much for their familiarity as their words. Battered copies of various books sat alongside together with assorted other texts that would not attract unwelcome attention.
But had anyone unlocked the hidden compartments secreted within the body of the bookcase, they would have found far more provocative tomes. Thuribles hung from sandalwood rafters, and a brazier of green flame burned at the heart of the pavilion. Ahriman would be able to breathe in the heady mix of aromas, letting their calming influence ease his passage into the lower Enumerations. A single, large desk stood next to this bookshelf. On the opposite side of the chamber was his personal arming rack containing his Power Armour and Bolter.
- A Thousand Sons (Novel) by Graham McNeill
- The Crimson King (Novel) by Graham McNeill, Ch. 4
- Siege of Terra - Sons of the Selenar (Novella) by Graham McNeill, Ch. 11