Armoured with a suspicion borne of bitter experience, the Iron Warriors have often been labelled paranoid, but as the events of the Dornian Heresy proved, not even brother Astartes can be trusted implicitly. As consummate siege-masters, they were instrumental in the success of the Great Crusade, and after the Betrayal they refortified the Imperium to withstand assaults from within as well as without. While other legions place their trust in dangerous psychic powers or the superstition of blind faith, the Iron Warriors depend instead upon thick walls, overwhelming firepower and meticulous planning to ensure victory.
Perturabo was a genius in the arts of siege-craft, but when it came to matters of human interaction, he was cold and detached. All through his youth he had been plagued by loneliness and haunted by the mystery of his own origins. This disconnection was not evident when he was first reunited with his true father, The Emperor. Instantly recognising the bond between them, and finally able to discover the reason for his existence, Perturabo greeted Him with a warmth he had not realised was possible. As they talked, Perturabo came to see his father’s Great Crusade as more than just an exercise in toppling the defences of worlds that opposed them, but as a means of bringing rationalism and enlightenment to a galaxy mired in superstition. As the first step, The Emperor gifted him the Fourth Legion of Adeptus Astartes, and bade him unify Olympia under his command. The former rulers of the city-states were outraged to find themselves reduced to the status of vassals, but under the circumstances they were powerless to prevent it.
Perturabo remoulded the Iron Warriors to his own ideals, but in speaking with his techmarines, it became apparent that there was still much for him to learn. While his legion prepared, Perturabo undertook a journey to the tech-adepts of Mars that, for less of a rationalist, might have been called a pilgrimage. He amazed the magos with his powers of analytical reason, and absorbed the accumulated wisdom of the red planet at an astonishing rate. Mars became almost a second home to Perturabo, but eventually the time came for him to apply all he had learned in the Great Crusade.
This frustration may have played a part in turning the rivalry between the Iron Warriors and Rogal Dorn’s Imperial Fists from professional disagreements over siege methodology to outright loathing. The campaign on the planet of Schravann had been so hard fought that four primarchs were present by its conclusion. At the banquet held to celebrate victory, Horus Lupercal of the Luna Wolves warmly praised the Iron Warriors for their achievements, which included the destruction of the final enemy citadel, and proclaimed Perturabo to be the finest exponent of siege warfare in the Imperium. Rogal Dorn, however, disagreed, and said that the Imperial Palace on Terra, which he had designed and his Imperial Fists guarded, was impregnable, and proof against any attack. Perturabo, with cold logic, pointed out that having studied the blueprints, he had found a number of vulnerabilities that a determined attacker could exploit, and further estimated that if the need arose his Iron Warriors could breach the walls within two months. At this, the hall exploded into uproar, as the Imperial Fists accused Perturabo of traitorous intent and of plotting to kill The Emperor. Amid accusation and insult, Perturabo’s genuine intention – to offer suggestions on how The Emperor’s security could be improved – was drowned out, and only the intervention of Horus and Fulgrim prevented the affair degenerating into bloodshed. Unsurprisingly, Schravann was the last planet on which these two legions fought as allies.
After many decades of success, the Great Crusade’s momentum began to falter. It had pushed out from Terra at such a rate that supply lines had become overstretched and vulnerable. Horus, one of the few primarchs that Perturabo could truly call a friend, asked for his advice concerning the problem which threatened to stall their progress. He concluded that important strategic worlds were falling prey to raiders, or even trying to secede from the Imperium, and that the forces assigned to guard them were unequal to the task. When Horus asked Perturabo for his opinion on the best way to solve these problems, the recommendation was that these strategic worlds be garrisoned by Astartes, and knowing that his legion was by far the best suited for the position, he volunteered his Iron Warriors.
While the logic of this was undeniable, it had a disastrous effect on legion’s the morale. They became warriors without a war, isolated and spread out thinly across the galaxy in numbers sometimes as small as a single squad. With supply lines secured, the expeditions moved ever further from Terra, which in turn necessitated the creation of ever more garrisons. The number of Iron Warriors remaining on the front lines dwindled to the point where they were unable to operate efficiently on their own, and became increasingly reliant upon others to carry out their battle plans.
This came to the fore at Ullanor, where Horus was named Warmaster of the Great Crusade in The Emperor’s stead. This honour was due in part to the unprecedented tally of worlds brought into compliance by the Sons of Horus, a number that would not have been nearly as high had it not been for the sacrifice and support of the Iron Warriors. With a brittle calm that belied the tension beneath, Perturabo discussed this with the Warmaster. Using irrefutable logic, he explained that the garrisoned worlds had been stabilised to the point where his legion’s skills were being wasted. He continued to push, noting the increased resistance being encountered by the expeditions, and that in his opinion his legion was the best suited to bolster the offensive. In the face of Perturabo’s clinical assessment of the situation, Horus relented, and sensing that their hunger for battle could be used for the good of the Great Crusade, he reassigned nearly half of the garrisons to the stewardship of the Imperial Fists.
Liberated from the stifling confines of endless garrison duty, the Iron Warriors returned to the front lines with an uncharacteristic enthusiasm. They set out to prove their worth so comprehensively that the Warmaster would have no choice but to release the other half of their legion. From the cleansing of the Hrud warrens on Gugann, which had resisted Imperial forces for decades, to the toppling of the living crystal fortresses of the Khugee, it seemed as though nothing could stand before their implacable advance. Even the disastrous news that the Ultramarines were poised to secede from the Imperium was taken as a chance to prove their worth. Loathe as he was to place his legion under the command of Rogal Dorn, who was to lead the assault, Perturabo pledged the Iron Warriors to the task of bringing Guilliman to heel at Istvaan.
The astropathic message he received in response was as curt as it was cryptic. It simply said “A legion that cannot even hold its homeworld has no place facing other Astartes.” Urgent communications with Olympia did indeed reveal that rioting had broken out all across the planet. Angry mobs roamed freely through the streets, attacking Imperial buildings and calling for the return of independence. It appeared that the former rulers of the city-states had moved from embittered resentfulness to open revolt in their attempts to reclaim power. In the confusion no-one thought to ask how Dorn had known of the riots so quickly, and by the time they did, the Heresy had already claimed three loyal legions.
While they had previously been resentful of their garrison worlds, on their journey it became obvious how effective they were at maintaining order, and of the vital role they played in keeping open the loyalists’ supply lines. Much less welcome were the garrisons they had only recently vacated in favour of the Imperial Fists, which were performing much the same task for the traitor’s cause. There was no time to raze them, but Perturabo vowed to his legion that they would return to reclaim them as soon as Dorn’s insurrection had been crushed. Above all things, they must reach Terra and save The Emperor, as to lose Him would be to lose everything.
This mantra was hardest to bear when they heard the pleas from their allies on Mars. They were under attack not just from their Chaos-infected brethren and the fallen Titan Legions, but also by the Astartes of the Iron Hands, who it was said were preparing to unleash some terrible weapon from the depths of the Noctis Labyrinthus. Perturabo yearned to go to Mars, but with the Sons of Horus standing ready to make planet-fall on Terra, they had no choice. Desperate entreaties from the Mechanicus quickly turned to bitter, angry threats, and the ultimatum that if they did not come immediately, they ‘would be as if dead’ to the Adeptus Mechanicus for all eternity. All manner of poisonous accusations were made, calling the Iron Warriors oath-breakers and worse, so that the fleet had long-since blocked their frequencies by the time global transmissions from the red planet fell ominously silent.
Warfare raged across the length and breadth of Terra, but the Iron Warriors were drawn inexorably to the Imperial Palace. It was Dorn’s self-proclaimed masterwork of defensive engineering, the trigger for the feud that dated back to Schravann. Now it would be their pleasure to tear it down brick by brick. The Warmaster had tasked them only with bottling up the traitors inside, which would slow down their progress to gain entry to The Emperor’s throne room. The longer their attention was diverted from His real location, the more time the Master of Mankind would have to bring His plans to fruition. Perturabo, however, was not content simply to bombard the palace from afar. He wanted to break the walls and prove to Dorn once and for all the superiority of his legion’s siege-craft.
The Iron Warriors tested the palace’s defences and defenders with vigour, gaining valuable insights about the weakness of the design, but losing many battle-brothers in the process. Seeing this, Horus told him to pull back, that these brethren would be needed later. Even Konrad Curze, half a world away, contacted Perturabo and begged him to withdraw. The Iron Warriors, however, had not turned their backs on liberating the garrison worlds and on their friends in the Mechanicus only to walk away from confronting their most hated enemy and the chance of ending Dorn’s Heresy once and for all.
On the fifty-fifth day of the siege, the Iron Warriors forced a breach in Dorn’s supposedly unbreakable palace, and in doing so proved their superiority to the Imperial Fists in siege warfare. However, their attack was repulsed, though not by Rogal Dorn, but by Sanguinius and his Blood Angels. By the end of the battle hundreds of their brothers lay dead in the rubble, yet none broke their cold hearts as surely as the sight of the shattered body of Perturabo. Devastated by the senseless loss of their primarch, the Iron Warriors regrouped for yet another assault upon the Ultimate Gate. Ignoring even the orders of Warmaster Horus, they seemed intent on joining Perturabo in death, and only through the personal intervention of The Emperor Himself were the Iron Warriors brought back to their senses. With great reluctance they withdrew to fortify the new centre of Imperial resistance – the Astronomicon.
These bulwarks became vital when the traitors breached the walls of the throne room and realised that they had been deceived. The Iron Warriors proved to be as valiant in defence as in attack, and their efforts were pivotal not just at keeping the Traitor Legions at bay, but for inflicting horrendous losses upon them in the process. Their technical knowledge was also invaluable in reconfiguring the Astronomicon, first to weaken the daemonic legions across Terra, and later, after the conclusion of the Heresy, to sustain the critically wounded Emperor in both body and spirit.
Their quest was given fresh urgency by the taunting transmissions from these worlds. They told of populations being worked to death as slaves and sacrificed to the Dark Gods to turn each planet into a fortress. The Legion Master’s decision to have each Grand Company simultaneously attack a different world to prevent them from finishing their fortifications was initially welcomed as a bold stroke worthy of Perturabo. In truth, it was simply the action of a man driven by grief, and unable to match the skill and judgement of his late primarch. Each Grand Company had links with a different world, and the arguments over which should be liberated first had threatened to tear the legion apart. They arrived to discover that they had been misled, and that the fortifications were already complete. Mourning for their lost primarch had erased all trace of their normal analytical detachment, and so across a dozen worlds the already depleted Grand Companies walked willingly into the traps that had been set for them.
In what became known as the Iron Cage Campaign, the Iron Warriors found themselves embroiled in bloody stalemates. They had insufficient forces to decisively break the enemy’s interlocking Chaos-enhanced fortifications, and too much pride to withdraw from the field. Time after time they stormed bastions, only to find the enemy had already withdrawn, and that the place they had died to claim had been turned into the next killing ground. While they bore their losses stoically, the frustration at never truly getting to grips with the enemy ate away at them. They were haunted by memories of the siege of the Imperial Palace, where they had broken through at great cost only to find their most hated enemy nowhere to be found.
As the Iron Cage closed ever-tighter, the same story was being played out across each planet. By a process of grinding attrition the Iron Warriors were being driven to the point of extinction. When barely a quarter of their number remained battle-ready, the Traitor Astartes finally went on the offensive. Recognising their imminent destruction, yet welcoming the chance to finally meet their enemy face to face, only the timely intervention of Abaddon leading a coalition of loyal Astartes prevented their annihilation and broke the Iron Cage.
Bereft of support from the Adeptus Mechanicus, they instead drew tithes from the garrison worlds. This took the form of raw materials, war production, and to help cement the relationship with the planets they were defending, recruits. To ensure the mistake of the Great Crusade was not repeated, where they rapidly found themselves overstretched and isolated, they expanded far above their pre-Heresy levels. This was augmented further still with the addition of vast numbers of weapon servitors, war machines and other, more specialised engines of destruction. This allowed them to be pro-active in defence and strike out at enemies before they got an opportunity to attack. Another factor that drove their expansion was that while they appreciated Abaddon’s intervention in breaking the Iron Cage, the thought of being beholden in such a way, even to a close ally, now went against their nature.
Their distrust is not restricted to their brother Astartes. Such is their disdain of the accuracy of ordnance laid down by the Imperial Army and Navy, and the losses they sustained due to their incompetence, that the creation of their own force of heavy artillery became a high priority. Similarly, the chilly relationship with the Adepts of Mars refused to thaw after the Heresy, and if anything grew frostier as the Mechanicus slipped into superstition. To fill the gap, the Iron Warriors built war machines along similar patterns to the massive Ordinati, towering Knight class walkers and even, it is rumoured, Titans. The Adepts of Mars complained bitterly of this, claiming that such things must have been looted, but the Iron Warriors defiantly maintain that they are solely the results of their own ingenuity. While the legion has certainly been observed to recover damaged Mechanicus assets from the battlefield, such items are always scrupulously delivered back to their forge world of origin.
Of all the Traitor Astartes to plague the Imperium, it is those of the former Imperial Fists that draw the majority of the legion’s attention. Whether they call themselves Black Legion, Scions of Dorn or Crimson Fists, the Iron Warriors take every opportunity to engage them. The elusive nature of the Blood Angels has meant that prospects of bring them conclusively to battle have been all-too rare. The exception to this was on Mackan in late M37, when they drew the plague legion into a trap that resulted in the slaughter of the better part of two Great Companies, and afforded the Iron Warriors a measure of vengeance for the death of their primarch.
This focus on the Chaos Legions, especially around the Eye of Terror, has come at the expense of the border with Guilliman’s Ultramar Segmentum. For all the legion’s size and power, even they cannot effectively garrison its entire length. Worlds under their aegis resist this implacable advance far better than those around them, which has resulted in small, embattled enclaves of the Imperium deep inside Ultramar space.
The death of a warsmith, especially if he has not named a clear successor, is a time of great turmoil as ambition and bitter rivalries come to the fore. On rare occasions the power-struggle is so extreme that the only recourse is to request permission from the Council of Warsmiths to divide the forces and create a new Grand Company. This has seen the number of Grand Companies rise beyond their original twelve, although such events are not taken lightly. Most potential Warsmiths calculate that is preferable to wait for the tides of battle and mortality to elevate them to command of a full strength Grand Company than hastily snatch the reins of a weakened one with the corresponding vulnerability that would bring.
On the attack, they take the same clinical approach. Powerful scans, rolling bombardments and infiltrating feints probe the enemy’s strengths and weaknesses, and inform their strategy. Each Grand Company uses a different approach, based upon the guiding philosophy of their warsmith and the equipment in their armoury. Most follow the traditional route of a massed armoured blitzkrieg of Vindicators and Fellblades, backed up with mechanised infantry in Land Raiders. The Eighth and Thirtieth Grand Companies, however, prefer to circumvent the enemy’s defences entirely; utilising extensive teleporter arrays or tunnelling vehicles respectively to strike at the very heart of the stronghold. Others use even more exotic equipment, such as the massive Ordinati of the Sixth, Ninth and Sixteenth Grand Companies and the mighty Knight walkers of the Twentieth that dwarf even dreadnoughts. Before the Heresy, the Iron Warriors worked closely with the forces of Mars, with the Scriptorum Maxis on Olympia mentioning many instances of Perturabo going to battle aboard the Corvus assault pod of a Warlord Titan. Rumours persist that the First Grand Company still has access to such things, although if they have ever been used, no enemy has ever witnessed it and lived to tell the tale.
Olympia is at the centre of a web of production that stretches clear across the Imperium, with an output to rival some of the larger forge worlds. Tithes of raw materials flow in from the garrison worlds, and in return, finely crafted weapons of war pass back to supply the Iron Warriors in their campaigns. To this end, Olympia is encircled with orbiting shipyards, solar collectors, space-docks and defence platforms. The fortified nature of Olympia extends far beyond this, though, with fleets of warships, minefields and early warning systems standing ready to challenge any unauthorised visitor.
An implant which has shown no sign of degradation over the millennia is the Catalepsean Node, which allows the brain to stay alert for long periods and reduces the need for sleep. Given their extensive duties as garrison troops this is a vital survival trait, as an Iron Warrior without a finely honed ability to stay alert to the approach of enemies would not live long enough to pass on his gene-seed to the next generation.
Edited by Aurelius Rex, 14 February 2010 - 12:13 AM.