Rylanor, known as Ancient Rylanor and Rylanor the Unyielding, was a Venerable Dreadnought and hero of the Emperor's Children Legion during the Great Crusade. He served as the IIIrd Legion's "Ancient of Rites," and had been mortally wounded battling the Aeldari in the late 30th Millennium, solar decades before the outbreak of the Horus Heresy. Following his wounding, Rylanor was interred within the adamantium shell of a Contemptor Pattern Dreadnought.
Rylanor was only part of the Primarch Fulgrim's Honour Guard by tradition, though he was increasingly troubled by the direction the IIIrd Legion moved in after the assault on the xenos world of Laeran. At the last minute, he traded places for the combat drop onto Isstvan III with Captain Saul Tarvitz of the 10th Company, who was supposed to go instead as one of the Emperor's Children Loyalists marked for betrayal and death.
Betrayed unto his own death by the duplicitous actions of the Warmaster Horus, Rylanor rallied the surviving Loyalist Emperor's Children and fought against the Traitors during the Battle of Isstvan III. He would survive the battle, and spent the next ten thousand Terran years planning to gain vengeance upon the man he truly blamed for the great betrayal -- his own Primarch, Fulgrim. Though Rylanor's attempt upon the Daemon Primarch's life ultimately failed and finally ended his own long life, it would leave a grim mark upon Fulgrim's soul forever after.
The IIIrd Legion was created alongside its brother Space Marine Legions during the latter phases of the Unification Wars on Terra, with many of its finest warriors drawn from the courts and blood vassal populations of Europa, the moon of Saturn.
In later decades, other Terran dynasties followed the example of Europa, filling the ranks of the IIIrd Legion with the flower of Terran youth who seemed well-matched with the aristocratic blood of its Initiates, forming a martial brotherhood whose ancestry in war stretched back into the lost ages of human history.
Rylanor hailed from this first, Terran generation of the Emperor's Children. Rylanor had the singular honour of fighting beside the Emperor of Mankind during the Unification Wars, with the battle honours Roma and Thule etched into his armour. His history was the history of the IIIrd Legion, and he had been the first to carry the Palatine Aquila standard into battle alongside his newfound primarch. When he fell grievously wounded in battle against the Aeldari, his salvation was internment in a Contemptor Pattern Dreadnought of his Legion.
Rylanor became the Emperor's Children's Ancient of Rites, presiding over the IIIrd Legion's Ceremonials of Induction aboard the IIIrd Legion's capital ship Andronicus, as well as lending his might to the line of battle for many solar decades until the treachery of the Warmaster Horus tore his Legion apart from within. When the atrocity on Isstvan III came, Rylanor's unshakeable loyalty to the Emperor marked him for death in his primarch's eyes and he was assigned to the first wave assault, but instead survived the first murderous blow of betrayal.
While serving aboard the Adronicus, Tenth Captain Saul Tarvitz had discovered something amiss in the changing character of his Legion. Though he had the honour of leading the speartip of the initial Imperial assault upon Isstvan III, he made an unusual request of Ancient Rylanor, and expressed his desire to remain aboard the Andronicus to function as Lord Commander Eidolon's senior staff officer.
Tarvitz was supicious of Eidolon's motives, for it was highly irregular for one of Fulgrim's favoured Lord Commanders not to take part in the speartip. Eidolon normally never passed up the opportunity to flaunt his martial prowess and for him to appoint another in his stead was unheard of. Though an unusual request, Rylanor honoured Tarvitz's desire and took the captain's place in the assault.
Once the Warmaster revealed his treacherous intentions and the fighting began in earnest, Rylanor soon became a priority target for the Traitors, his power dooming scores of his former Battle-Brothers to their deaths wherever he fought, while his mere presence became a rallying cry for those loyal Emperor's Children battling it out to the bitter end.
To the Loyalists on Isstvan III, Rylanor was a living icon of the Legion's glory and the perfection and righteousness of their loyalty to the Emperor. Reported destroyed by the Traitors several times during the fighting, Rylanor, increasingly damaged, somehow managed to endure for much of the fighting on Isstvan III, but his final fate long remained unknown.
Second Death of Isstvan III
"So. Long. I. Have...waited...Forgot. Name. Forgot brothers. Only hate endured. Only vengeance sustained me."
- — Ancient Rylanor, last survivor of the Isstvan III Atrocity
After the final orbital bombardment of the planetary capital of Isstvan III, the Choral City, the Venerable Dreadnought took himself off into the depths of the Precentor's Palace, never to be seen again.
It was not like Rylanor to run from a fight, though the Traitor Lucius, who initially fought on the side of the Loyalists before turning against them to reclaim his position in the III Legion, overheard Captain Tarvitz mention something about the honoured Ancient guarding something, though he did not know what it was.
Rumour was that he had found some kind of underground hangar, but if that were the case, the Renegade Imperial Planetary Governor Vardus Praal had not utilised it to escape when the Legions arrived. Rylanor's fate ultimately did not matter to his traitorous former kin, for whatever Rylanor's purpose, they believed that it was doomed to failure, and that he had been buried beneath thousands of tonnes of radioactive slag like all the other Loyalists on Isstvan III.
Thousands of Terran years after the events that occurred during the Horus Heresy, a trio of Heretic Astartes from the Thousand Sons Traitor Legion, Murshid and Akhtar, led by the Chaos Sorcerer Malin Vistario, were despatched by their Daemon Primarch Magnus the Red from Sortiarius, the so-called Planet of the Sorcerers, to investigate a distress signal that came from a long-dead world. The message repeated itself over and over, with a simple phrase, ambiguous, yet portentous: "The Ancient awaits."
The investigating Thousand Sons arrived on the dead world and traversed a series of subterranean catacombs until they reached a hangar, with a small spacecraft located at the centre of it that had been destroyed by tonnes of fallen masonry.
Beside the craft, Vistario spotted the shattered outline of an ancient Contemptor Dreadnought. Dust and ash lay thick on its adamantium sarcophagus, the colour of its armour all but obscured. One leg had been sheared from its body, and its left side buckled inwards so deeply that the flesh within was surely dead. Its weapon arms, a Kheres Pattern Assault Cannon and a splay-clawed Power Fist, were aimed skywards, as if this ancient hero of the Legions had sought to vent his fury towards the heavens with the last of his existence.
The Dreadnought lay upon something half-buried in the rock of the cavern floor, its surface burned and unrecognisable. More cables snaked from the small, wrecked spacecraft and were hooked into the object's underside as well as to the war machine. A strange device was connected to the Dreadnought. It appeared to be a monstrous hybrid of musical instrument and an apparatus of excruciation designed by a sadistic lunatic. Its colours were faded, but once it had been vividly painted and elaborately ornamented, and it still thrummed with energy.
As Vistario drew closer and sought for a way to disconnect the device, which was the source of the distress beacon the Thousand Sons had received, the ancient and not-so dead Dreadnought awakened and wrapped its massive Power Fist around the body of Brother Murshid. The Dreadnought also aimed its mighty Assault Cannon at Vistario before pausing and declaring that they were not the ones the Dreadnought sought.
Unaware of the wider events that had occurred during the Horus Heresy, the Dreadnought did not know of the XV Legion's fall to Chaos. Realising this, Vistario quickly played along and told the Dreadnought that their Legion still endured. But the Dreadnought, though barely clinging to life, knew evasion when he heard it. The Sorcerer then explained that he would not like the truth.
When Vistrio inquired as to the identity of the Dreadnought, the ancient explained that he was, "..he who remembers. I am the Ancient of Rites." Like a thunderbolt, a sudden flash of prescience swept through Vistario as he came to the startling realisation that the war-wracked Dead World above them was none other than Isstvan III -- the site where the Warmaster Horus had cut the Loyalist chaff from his Traitor Legions and first revealed his allegiance to Chaos. The Dreadnought was none other than Ancient Rylanor.
Vistario knew the name. The only mention of the Dreadnought's fate came from that most unreliable of narrators, Lucius the Swordsman, who claimed Saul Tarvitz spoke of an underground hangar the Dreadnought was rumoured to have found. When Vistorio asked Rylanor why he had not escaped, the Dreadnought explained that he had attempted to do so, but the shockwave of Isstvan III's death went deeper and lasted longer than any could have foreseen. The roof of the cavern collapsed, trapping him there.
Vistario glanced at the strange device hooked to the interior of the wrecked starship and inquired as to the device's purpose. Rylanor explained it was a Sonic Weapon of some kind. A handful of his former brothers among the Emperor's Chidren had found the hangar and sought to kill him. They failed, but the power of their weapons crippled him and left him mortally wounded. Vistario deduced that Ryalnor had managed to reshape the Sonic Weapon into a distress beacon of some kind. But the Dreadnought chuckled at the ignorance of Vistario's observation, for the device was no mere distress beacon, it was a lure.
When Vistario asked what the device was intended to lure, a silken voice answered, "For me. Isn't that right Rylanor?" The device had been modified to draw the Daemon Primarch Fulgrim back to Isstvan III. And it had worked.
Without warning, Fulgrim -- now a Daemon Prince of Slaanesh -- suddenly appeared from the shadows. Rylanor was horrified and disgusted by his former gene-sire's appearance. The primarch was an abomination, even by the standards of warriors who had seen their own gene-father hideously changed by the transformative energies of the Warp.
The Daemon Primarch mocked the Ancient's damaged appearance. Fulgrim asked the Ancient of Rites why he had summoned him to this long-dead place. The Dreadnought managed to push his carapace upright into a sitting position, revealing the object that had lain beneath it for millennia. Humming power cables ran from Rylanor's sarcophagus to an opened control panel. Vistario felt his blood chill as he finally understood what it was.
Rylanor asked Fulgrim whether it had been millennia since the events of the Isstvan III Atrocity. The Daemon Primarch replied that indeed it had, and mocked Rylanor for all the time that had been wasted and all the glory unearned, all the victories denied, had he still served within the ranks of the IIIrd Legion. Rylanor gave another grating bark of laughter in response.
Rylanor explained that if millennia had passed since the Isstvan III Atrocity, then he had had millennia to perfect his weapon. It was at that moment that the Daemon Primarch realised the true nature of the object that the Dreadnought's body had obscured, as Rylanor sent an activating pulse of energy to the armed warhead of an unexploded Virus Bomb.
Brother Akhtar utilised his Raptora cult powers and summoned forth a psychic kine shield in order to contain the explosion, though his ability to maintain such a barrier was tested to its limits. Enraged, Fulgrim attacked Rylanor. Enhanced by his Slaanesh-gifted powers, fast as quicksilver, the Daemon Primarch crushed the Dreadnought's Assault Cannon and effortlessly ripped the arm from the Dreadnought's body.
Fulgrim used one of his alien blades and cut into the outer case of the Dreadnought's carapace. Reaching within, he breached Rylanor's sarcophagus and ripped out what was left of the Legionary's mortally-wounded form.
Fulgrim offered Rylanor the opportunity to return to the Emperor's Children Legion and accept the gifts of the Dark Prince and walk at his side, clad once again in flesh. He could be anything, as the Daemon Primarch had the power to sculpt him into any form he desired. Vistorio could sense Rylanor's horror at this last violation. An inescapable destiny where he would become that which he hated most.
The Dreadnought did not care whether he lived or died, only that Fulgrim went with him. Rylanor roared his defiance, "Never! All we have left between us is that we will die together! I am Rylanor of the Emperor's Children. Ancient of Rites, Venerable of the Palatine Host, and proud servant of the Emperor of Mankind, beloved by all. I reject you now and always!"
The Thousand Sons were at a loss as to what they should do -- to let matters come to a head or to intervene on Rylanor's behalf. Vistario felt Fulgrim's infinite malice, his cruel enjoyment of Rylanor's anguish and the helplessness of the Thousand Sons. The primarch of the Emperor's Children revelled in his overweening pride, a trait Magnus the Red had more than once told Vistario had been present long before his fall to Chaos.
But more than anything, stronger even than Fulgrim's spite, Vistario felt Rylanor's pride and honour, the unbending core of greatness that had set him against his brothers and seen him descend into obsessive madness trapped beneath the surface of a Dead World. Vistario took the measure of Fulgrim, seeing nothing worthy in him. His fellow warriors felt the moment his decision was made.
Vistorio raised his bolter and fired a mass-reactive shell into the back of Brother Akhtar's skull. The Raptora's head exploded and with his death, the psychic force holding back the warhead's detonation ended. Once more, all life was burned away on Isstvan III, first by the organic decay wrought by the Life Eater virus and then by the planetary conflagration that followed as all of that organic matter ignited.
It took much less time for the Life Eater virus to burn out on Isstvan III's second death. Yet, not long after, a shadow emerged from the undercity, a serpentine outline of cinders, held together by a web of daemonic energy.
Not even the viral toxins wrought by ancient Imperial science could unmake that which the darkest powers of the Warp had raised up. The Phoenician's form was already weaving itself anew, but his soul was broken. For no pain, no hurt and no injury could wound such a being as much as the denial of its own imagined magnificence. That simple truth was Ancient Rylanor's final victory.
- Smoke Launchers
- Kheres Pattern Assault Cannon - The Kheres Pattern Assault Cannon is an ancient pattern of the weapon that was commonly deployed on Contemptor Pattern Dreadnoughts during the Great Crusade and the Horus Heresy. It maintains a higher rate of fire than the standard pattern Assault Cannons used in the late 41st Millennium.
- Dreadnought Close Combat Weapon - This weapon consisted of a large Dreadnought Power Fist with built-in Heavy Flamer.
- Atomantic Shielding – One of the ancient Contemptor Pattern Dreadnought’s most distinctive features is a series of defensive field generators mounted inside its armour plating and powered by the enhanced Atomantic power core within.
- Horus Heresy: Collected Visions (Art Book), pg. 23
- The Horus Heresy - Book One: Betrayal, by Alan Bligh, pg. 260
- Galaxy In Flames (Novel) by Ben Counter, pp. 24, 109-112, 120, 123, 129-131, 154-155, 182
- Fulgrim (Novel) by Graham McNeill, pp. 73, 75, 297, 346-347
- Sons of the Emperor (Anthology), "The Ancient Awaits" by Graham McNeill, pp. 133-149