|CHAPTER NAME: .............. THE STEEL DOGS|
FOUNDING: .................. 8TH [M.34]
CHAPTER WORLD: ............. KELL
FORTRESS MONASTERY: ........ CAVES OF CANEM
GENE-SEED (PREDECESSOR): ... IMPERIAL FISTS
KNOWN DESCENDANTS: ......... NONE
We are the Emperor’s hounds, to lie at the Emperor’s feet – Commander Simeon Ward, On Fealty
The Steel Dogs were created in the Eighth Founding to serve as part of the Astartes Praeses on the northern border of the Eye of Terror. Greatly honored by such an important responsibility being granted to them, the fledgling chapter took their duties as a sacred charge from the Emperor. They saw their mission and even their home world as sanctified by Him on Earth - the Emperor had shown them the way and given them the tools to carry out His word, and they worked ceaselessly to be worthy of such an honour. Over the centuries and millennia following the chapter's founding, reports returned to Terra of pirate bands hunted down, heretical covens rooted out, and Chaos raids driven off in ferocious space battles. On dozens of worlds, the Steel Dogs died so that the people of the Imperium might live in safety, each of them thanking the Emperor for the opportunity to fall in His service and that of humanity. They dedicated themselves to serving the Imperium and its people, and their dedication was rewarded with victories and accolades.
The chapter's home world of Kell was their particular pride. Though many chapters would have remade the world in their own image, the Steel Dogs recognized that the planet had endured the corrupting forces of Chaos for millennia without ill effect. Any world which could do so when the Eye of Terror loomed in its sky could hardly be anything other than pure. Indeed, being entrusted with such a prize was an honour to the chapter as much as to the planet. The Steel Dogs thus trusted that the Emperor's benevolence would guide Kell, as in the centuries before they arrived. They founded their Fortress-Monastery in tunnels on Kell's moon, Avren, and interacted with the planet only in emergencies or when recruiting.
The Astartes Praeses are the watchmen on the walls of the Imperium, and the the Steel Dogs were ever-conscious of the responsibilities of their position. Other chapters have the freedom to pursue glory, to seek out enemies, and to embrace the challenge of the fight, but the Astartes Praeses have no such luxury - at least, not in the minds of the Steel Dogs. The proper place of a Steel Dog was to die defending the Imperium from those who would do it harm, not to win glory and honor and a place in history. This belief was reflected in the chapter's recruitment, and where other chapters took the greatest warriors from their home worlds, the Steel Dogs took those whose strength lay in their humility and dedication to duty.
While these policies served the chapter well for many centuries, the Steel Dogs eventually noticed that their recruitment intake was declining. Where once they might have taken a hundred aspirants, they would now take fifty - and those numbers were sinking ever lower. It soon became clear that while the recruits were as physically strong and capable as before, their spiritual strength was lacking. The tests of character and morality which ensured that only the worthy and the pure became Space Marines of the Emperor were as effective as ever - it was the people who had changed. These weaknesses did not stem from the tendrils of Chaos - the people of Kell had not abandoned the Emperor. The population had simply turned away from the self-sacrifice, humility, and strength of spirit the chapter demanded. Boys longed to be Space Marines so that they could earn glory and be mighty warriors, not so they could serve the Emperor and protect Mankind. They wished to be masters, not servants.
The chapter was disturbed by this. The people of Kell had seemingly abandoned the Emperor-sanctified ideals by which the chapter lived. Debate raged over what to do. To intervene in the lives of the population was unthinkable - morality imposed would be no morality at all. It was impossible to abandon their home world for another - it would be a stain on their honor, a violation of the duty with which the Emperor had charged them. To reward weakness by taking those not worthy of being Space Marines would be an even greater stain. But something had to be done. With heavy hearts, the Steel Dogs resolved that if the weakness of the people was all there was, then that was what they would use.
In the chapter's next recruitment cycle things were different. The tests of morality and purity were gone. All those who were strong enough, quick enough and deadly enough were welcomed into the Scout Company. The chapter took more recruits in one cycle than they had in the previous three. The successful aspirants were rewarded with feasts and celebration lasting almost a month, before beginning the process of becoming a Space Marine.
A full five years later, the Tenth Company’s Strike Cruiser slipped into orbit above a small, feudal world whose name has since been lost to time. Battle-hardened, the Scouts aboard were now stronger, faster, and more deadly than any normal man. The Captain of the Tenth assembled them in the hold of their Strike Cruiser, where he exhorted them with tales of their victories and of the triumphs they had won. He told them that as a sign of the Emperor’s trust in his new Space Marines, the planet below would belong to them for the next month, for it had been lax in its service to the Imperium. It was up to the new Steel Dogs to instruct the population in the proper duties of an Imperial subject. They would receive the final surgeries to activate their Black Carapaces over the next three days, and on the fourth day they would descend to the world below to show the people what it meant to be a Space Marine.
That night, as each Marine lay on the cold tables of the Apothecarion, Librarians of the chapter probed their minds, showing them visions of the world below, and whispering questions in their minds of being a Space Marine of the Steel Dogs truly meant. Primed by their Captain's two-edged exhortations, the recruits' answers varied - some dreamed of meditation and training, some of debauchery and vice, and all too many of violence, dominion and murder. Only a few dreamed of service and the stalwart defense of those who cannot defend themselves.
When the new Space Marines woke from their surgeries, they were irrevocably divided into two groups. Those few who chose to defend the people rose as normal Space Marines, the Angels of Death who are humanity's most capable guardians. Many were not so blessed. They found that their will was no longer their own - arcane devices buried within their skulls and the strictest of chemical conditioning now kept them firmly under the control of their officers. For their sins, they were to be condemned to an eternity trapped within their own minds, released only to fight the enemies of the Imperium. They would never ascend the ranks, only serve and die for the chapter and Mankind, faceless giants in power armor bound to the will of their commanders. Such was the punishment for those who sought power for themselves, and not for the service of the Emperor and his people. Such is the punishment today.
A true son of the Emperor does not need to be told to do what is right – he knows. And those who do not must be punished for their ignorance. –Captain Thaddeus Fetladral
Though the Steel Dogs' new recruitment methods granted them an influx of new soldiers, it required adjustments in the methods of the chapter. Originally, the Steel Dogs favored relatively subtle battle plans, relying on deception, surprise, ingenuity and any manner of other dishonorable tactics to counter the often superior numbers of Chaotic forces. The chapter was less concerned with immediate glory than with their greater duty to defend the Imperium and contain the forces of Chaos within the Eye of Terror.
The damnati, as those who fail the final test are known, are mistrusted and viewed with contempt. Since they are not promoted (or even seen as competent by some commanders), the chapter thus has a correspondingly smaller pool from which to draw its specialists and officers, and the Steel Dogs have modified their tactics to compensate both for this and for the perceived unreliability of the majority of their troops. The chapter's battle plans still use their original tactics where possible, but they are often forced to rely on the massed infantry of the damnati and use their subtler stratagems as complements to that hammer blow.
Methods of utilising the damnati on the battlefield often bear a marked resemblance to the older combat styles of the Space Marine Legions, the methods of which are still contained within the Codex Astartes. Where modern Marines rely on extremes of skill and precision, the ancient Legions relied as much on weight of numbers and excessive firepower. It is these tactics the Steel Dogs have been forced to embrace.
Supplementing direct confrontation with their traditional subtler strategies has allowed the Steel Dogs to continue to engage larger Traitor formations, but the Battle Companies are almost constantly reinforced by elements from the Reserve Companies in order to provide the necessary numbers to support such directness. This has spread the Chapter thin across their areas of responsibility, and they now endure a frenetic pace attempting to deal with the increasing number of threats with correspondingly reduced resources.
The command staff of the Steel Dogs have become relatively inexperienced due to the smaller cadre from which they can be drawn. The chapter does its best to ensure that all receive superlative instruction to compensate
for this, and much of that education involves the specialized art of commanding the damnati. One of the first things Steel Dog officers learn is how to phrase orders so the damnati do what the officer intends – and, perhaps more importantly, so they do not do what the officer does not intend. There have been several occasions in the chapter’s history where poorly phrased orders have granted the damnati license to turn their weapons on their officers - and the damnati have done so.
The presence of the damnati has also provoked several formal organisational changes from the chapter's prior methods. First, the damnati are not granted the formal rank of Brother - instead, they are simply Marines, and are only addressed as such.
The chapter's Cult has evolved greatly over time. Initially dedicated to the Emperor as creator of the Imperium and of the Space Marines, the ever-present threat of Chaos has clarified in the chapter's mind the perfection of what the Emperor wrought. Equally, the tendrils of the Great Enemy have warned the chapter of the dangers of even seemingly-innocent changes to doctrine. Within a few centuries of their founding, the chapter had become firmly convinced of two things - the perfection of the Emperor and that which He had sanctified with His approval, and the danger of change, which all too often serves as first innocuous entrance of Chaos. Many Dornian successors are conservative by nature, and many fervent in their devotion to the Emperor, but the Steel Dogs have become unusually so, especially as the lights of the Imperium grow ever dimmer and more twisted dark forces spill forth from the Eye of Terror. The damnati have, if anything, driven the chapter further in this direction, as the changes they force triggers an instinctive defense of the chapter's other doctrines. Some Imperial observers have expressed surprise that the chapter chose to create the damnati rather than die with honor, but this overlooks the third principle which drives the Steel Dogs - their dedication to their duty as part of the Astartes Praeses. The chapter sees that duty as a personal charge from the Emperor, and as time has gone by and their fervency grown, so has their willingness to do anything, sacrifice anything, destroy anything, so long as their duty is fulfilled and the Imperium kept safe. The damnati do not represent an abandonment of the chapter's beliefs - only demonstrate the extent to which the chapter will compromise those things they hold dear to protect that which is even more important.
"My strength is as the strength of ten, for my heart is pure. My strength is as the strength of a hundred, because they did not see me coming. It is better to sacrifice personal honor and win, than sacrifice the honor of the chapter by losing." – Captain Esca Blackblood
The Etherway Engagement [274.M37]
The Dark Eldar are one of the most vicious enemies humanity has ever faced. Though others match them for capability, few match them for sadism. When their presence was reported in the Arc-Royal system but no raiding took place upon the system's planets, the Steel Dogs' Fourth Company was sent to investigate. Though it took several weeks, eventually a chapter scout ship discovered what had drawn the Dark Eldar forces to the area.
The system's cometary cloud held a Dark Age of Technology colony ship, the Etherway, almost impenetrably armored and still inhabited. Even barely functional, these ships are still valued prizes for the Adeptus Mechanicus, and their inhabitants often make excellent recruits for the Imperial Guard, Marine chapters, or, if nothing else, the ranks of a local Forge World's servitors. The Dark Eldar were still searching for a way in when the Steel Dogs came upon them. Though the chapter managed to drive off the raider's ships, many Dark Eldar remained on the hull of the massive station.
The chapter was not yet experienced in the use of the damnati, and so the operation's commander ordered his Marines into a prolonged hunt across the surface of the structure. Its baroque design and the lack of gravity made the prenaturally quick and subtle Dark Eldar even more dangerous than usual. Though the damnati served the chapter well in the battle across the Etherway's surface, standing firm where even other Space Marines might have hesitated, their tenacity was tempered by inflexibility. The damnati could beat the Dark Eldar - until their officers fell, when they would be surrounded, outmaneuvered, and destroyed.
Eventually, they were ordered to open areas on the Etherway's hull. The Strike Cruisers then raked remainder of the colony ship's surface with their point defense systems. Though not dangerous to full warships, these weapons were more than sufficient to eliminate the remaining Dark Eldar raiders.
Though the Dark Eldar were annihilated, many of the damnati and their officers lay dead. The Chapter's high command took stock of this, and the Steel Dogs' tactical principles were revised, trying to balance the need to face dangerous and subtle enemies with the inflexibility of the damnati. In many ways, each battle the chapter has faced since has reflected this - where the commander finds this balance, the Steel Dogs triumph. Where he fails, so do they.
The Battle of Thrycross [698.M38]
Triumphs are rare in the histories of the Astartes Praeses. Far more common are pyrrhic victories, desperate last stands, and the crushing of rebellions which flare up again as soon as the Space Marines have departed. Though it is the Black Crusades which draw the attention of Imperial historians and responses from across the Imperium, the raids and isolated attempts at conquest of various Chaos warbands are a constant thorn in the side of the Imperial forces that defend the Eye of Terror. One of these conquest attempts involved the warband of Khulloth Von Strang, a Slaaneshi prince who had marauded, debauched and depopulated his way through half the outer worlds of the Thrycross system before the Steel Dogs' Fifth Company arrived.
The two forces met in battle on Thrycross itself, a maze of chasms and caverns, and a running battle raged through them. The Fifth Company had begun the battle understrength and without their usual supporting elements, and the deceptive wiles of the Slaaneshi adherents proved capable of overcoming even the powerful conditioning of the damnati. A handful even attempted to turn their weapons on their officers, though most simply collapsed into catatonia or robotically followed their last orders. Still, the confusion this engendered in the ranks proved fatal to the coordination of the various elements of the Steel Dogs’ assault. Though they dealt fearsome casualties to the Chaotic warband, they were driven back toward Thycross' capital.
Finally, Lieutenant Takeshi St. Veir, the surviving senior officer, ordered the remainder of the company to retreat to the capital, remaining behind to challenge the members of the warband to single combat in a large canyon outside the capital.
The Lieutenant was slightly surprised when six of the Chaotic Champions accepted his challenge. Though he defeated the first three, the poison of their weapons and the foul emanations of Chaos slowly broke his strength, and the blade of the fourth separated his head from his shoulders. However, even before his lifeless body had slumped into the dust, the walls of the canyon erupted in fire and smoke, and avalanches buried all but a few members of the warband. The remainder of the PDF had planted charges throughout the canyon while the Steel Dogs fought the warband, and the death of St. Veir triggered them, annihilating Von Strang's forces - including Von Strang himself. The surviving handful of Chaotic warriors were easy pickings for the PDF and the remainder of the Fifth Company. Though it cost them greatly, the Steel Dogs had discharged their duty as Astartes Praeses.
The Battle of Port David [143.M40]
The world of Port David lies near the edge of the Eye of Terror, and assaults upon it were frequent. When the Steel Dogs' Third Company responded to a distress call from Port David, they were expecting something unusual, as Chaos so often provides, and they were not disappointed.
Most assaults on Port David came from offworld, but the most recent assault had been coupled with several of the planet's nation-states siding with Chaos. While some strife between the various constituent nations of the planet was not uncommon, this was unprecedented. Equally odd were the tactics and methods of their opponent - Grand Captain Inquis Longtooth, who led a force of surprisingly well-trained and equipped Beastmen reinforced by elite Chaos Space Marines.
The battles at Port David were studied by the chapter for a thousand years afterward. Captain Phelan Aeacid of the Third was perhaps the brightest tactical mind the chapter had seen, and Longtooth a canny opponent. Longtooth’s forces outnumbered the Marines by hundreds to one, and massed ground attacks should have been suicidal. But Aeacid moved his forces as though they were ghosts, using his air superiority to move his troops from deployment to deployment, always striking where the enemy was weakest. Enemy maneuvering encountered minefields and booby-traps. Small squads mimicked conventional Space Marine tactics while larger forces massed elsewhere. If the enemy was foolish enough to respond, the massed force struck the remaining enemy troops and broke them. Though not as flexible as other marines, the superior forces the Steel Dogs could bring to bear meant that wherever they struck they were victorious.
Longtooth’s forces bled, but so did Aeacid’s. Each battle cost soldiers that could not be replaced, and the Port David PDF was virtually useless, fractured with suspicion and mistrust in the wake of the initial uprisings. Indeed, Imperial analysts have since questioned whether Chaos corruption was not responsible for much of this intransigence. Regardless of its cause, the result was that the Steel Dogs were poorly supported against a much larger force, whose numbers seemed to be eternally swelled by traitorous locals, eager to win plunder in the service of the Dark Gods.
Though they managed to drive Longtooth's forces back into their friendly cities, Aeacid decided that the only solution to their dilemma was to strike those enemy cities that lacked effective garrisons, in hopes of sparking rebellion and discord within the enemy's ranks, and (if nothing else could be done) depriving the enemy of their base of support by destroying city infrastructure and forcing Longtooth to either lose support or dedicate resources to maintaining them. In the confusion that would result, the Steel Dogs might be able to get the upper hand. Likewise, a strike against their former allies would revitalize the PDF.
Unfortunately, things proceeded badly. Aeacid was killed by a sniper almost immediately upon entering the city. Most of the PDF was slaughtered, and those who were not either surrendered or switched sides. The remaining Steel Dogs quickly realized that the situation was untenable, and withdrew, but several squads of damnati were left behind in the city. Local intelligence sources later reported seeing some of those same damnati serving as lieutenants in Longtooth's forces. Though the Third Company did its best to salvage the situation, all but one of the cities surrendered to Longtooth, most without even a token fight. The Third oversaw the evacuation of the last city's population offplanet, then withdrew themselves, leaving Port David in the hands of Longtooth and Chaos.
* * *
Steel Dogs by Greyall
Hauled out of the Legio Imprint, both for my own convenience and because the files are down for a little while. Feedback welcome.
Greyall's image was unfortunately omitted because the article's not really long enough to fit it.
Edited by Octavulg, 07 March 2013 - 04:13 PM.