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"The Emperor Protects most those who Protect themselves." ~ First Tenet of the Iron Creed
"Do these people - good and faithful in their praise of Him - not deserve the protection of the Church?" ~ Cardinal Ebritius von Lochlane, taken from his collected Missives to the Cardinals, 062.M40
The Glastheim Rifts have long been a site where corruption and heresy fester under the surface. The malevolent forces within the Rift cannot directly overpower the Imperium's forces, but instead seek to subvert them, sowing dissent and treachery in the hearts and minds of formerly loyal citizens.
During 031.M40, Ebritius von Lochlane, a Cardinal of some repute within the local branch of the Eccelsiarchy, hatched a daring plan to bolster the will and loyalty of the faithful around the Rifts. Under his guidance, a cluster of stately cathedrals were constructed on key worlds along the southern edge of the Glastheim Rifts, each one a gilded and proud monument to the glory of Him on Terra. Once these cathedrals were completed, Ebritius paid an official visit to the comparatively isolated world of Zhelnyka, where he had a vision of The Emperor and undertook a solitary pilgrimage into the mountains there.
When he returned to civilisation two days later, he carried with him an old white robe, which he stated was the lost robe of Saint Ashla the Pure, whose tomb he had discovered in the mountains. Ordaining the construction of another church - one topped by a tower of polished metal, as he claimed The Emperor had instructed him to make. With this underway, von Lochlane decreed his cathedrals part of a traditional Pilgrimage route, leading from beyond the Rifts towards Holy Terra.
Whether or not von Lochlane had truly beheld a vision of The Emperor quickly became a moot point. Pilgrims flocked in their billions to visit these holy sites and pay their respects to the remnant of the beloved Saint Ashla. Fiendish cultists sought to infiltrate the ranks of the faithful, but were rooted out by the vigilant priests and publicly destroyed to the roars of approval from the pious.
Cardinal von Lochlane, using these displays to demonstrate the level of danger that could befall the faitfhul on their pilgrimage, rallied enough support that a sanction mandating the creation of an Order of the Adepta Sororitas was passed. Their mission was simple - protect the pilgrimage routes, and eradicate any and all traces of heresy to be found around the Glastheim Rifts.
Orginally taken from and trained by a small convent associated with the Order of the Sacred Rose, these newly ordained Battle Sisters took the name "The Order of the Iron Tower", after the sacred site where Saint Ashla's robe had been found.
Even while the Order was in transit to the Rifts, Cardinal von Lochlane, aided by the masses of pilgrims, continued to travel the circumference of the Glastheim Rifts, building churches and cathedrals on auspicious worlds as they did so.
By 456.M40, thanks to the tireless work of the devoted and faithful, a complete circuit of holy sites was established around the perimeter of the Glastheim Rifts, and the numbers of devout citizens who prostrated themselves at the cathedrals of the Glastheim Pilgrimage continued to grow almost daily.
Recognizing the need for the Order of the Iron Tower to remain highly mobile to protect this densely populated realm, the Ecclesiarchy under von Lochlane and his successors had forged strong bonds with a naumber of spacefaring allies.
Most obvious of these was the attachment to the Dalchebor Rogue Trader dynasty, whose founders shared a distant heritage with Cardinal von Lochlane himself. It was eventually agreed to loan the Order the Dalchebor's Flagship, the King's Gambit, for the purpose of transporting the Adepta Sororitas in exchange for favourable trade rights on the shrine worlds of the Glastheim Pilgrimage.
Alongside the Rogue traders, the priests made sure to make an ally of Forge-World Valstrax, the largest and most capable Mechanicus-held planet in the Glastheim Rifts. Putting aside small yet faultlessly constructed churches for the worship of the Omnissiah on many of the shrine worlds around the Rifts and conducting additional sermons with a decidedly Mechanicus-friendly bent, the Cardinals won the respect of the Valstraxi. In turn, their Forge World supplied the Order of the Iron Tower with a purpose-built manufactorum-vessel named the Argent Victory. This mighty vessel was designed to fabricate entire sections of cathedrals and churches for ease of construction on worlds where such resources were scarce.
Finally, the influx of devout citizens inspired great faith in many of the regiments and navies of the Glastheim Rifts. In particular, Battlefleet Albanastra is made up largely of the descendants of pilgrims who settled in the Glastheim Rifts, for whom the glory of the Church is something they hold dear. The Cardinals who came after von Lochlane made a point of impressing upon Battlefleet Albanastra the importance of safeguarding the Glastheim Pilgrimages, and the devout officers were only to happy to agree, lending a portion of their fleet to transport and escort the Order of the Iron Tower along the pilgrimage routes. Some of these ships accompany the Argent Victory, and others act as an escort for the King's Gambit. The rest defend a Naval Transport vessel dubbed the Spirit of Albanastra, where the final contingent of Adepta Sororitas dwell.
"War is our shrine, and our guns our chorus - so stand, and sing with us!" ~ Canoness Aragi, Order of the Iron Tower, before the battle of Byrnfeldt Hive, 249.M40
The Order of the Iron Tower has had a battle-worn and turbulent history since arriving at the Glastheim Rifts. The Sisters have often been at the forefront of what has been dubbed "The War of Faith" by the Eccelsiarchy - pitted against the insidious plots and corruptions instigated by the heretics in the heart of the Glastheim Rifts.
The heretics have proven to be persistent, planting the seeds of rebellion through artifice and cunning. Coming before Imperial citizens in the guise of devout, beneficent servants of their 'Great Gods', making false promises of salvation and glory to ensnare the weak-willed, and turn them, by degrees, to the cause of Chaos.
The Order of the Iron Tower, from their earliest days, has shown no mercy to the corrupted. They quickly came to specialise in hunting down and exposing these heretical and deviant cults. The Order swiftly came to discover that even Shrine Worlds - and even worlds on the Pilgrimage Routes - were not immune to the seductive whispers of heresy.
And yet despite the Order's perpetual vigil, these dark cults would sometimes muster their strength and take hideous action - making pacts with fell powers, razing or defacing religious sites, murdering those they could not corrupt and besieging settlements that clung to the true faith of the God-Emperor.
Such brazen heresy could only meet with one fate - the violent retribuition of the righteous. The Order of the Iron Tower fought tooth and nail to cast down each and every blasphemous uprising. In the early years, the Order often found themselves fighting alone as the resolve of the pilgrims or citizens they stood to defend wavered and failed.
And yet, sometimes those who fled would come back. Inspired by the absolute resolve of the Order of the Iron Tower, pilgrims and Imperial citizens alike that found their courage would charge into the fight, often with only the shirt on their back for protection, and hurl themselves into the ranks of the enemy with zealous fury. Those that chose to stand and fight alongside the Sisterhood were honoured in the aftermath, and those that died in the attempt were given a martyr's burial.
It was these times, where the Sisters bore witness to the flight of cowards and the fall of the valiant, that shaped the creed of the Order of the Iron Tower. In their hours of need, the only miracle the Sisters witnessed was the miracle of human courage.
Thus, the Order decided, it was the miracle of courage that was The Emperor's true gift to His people, and the means by which He judges them. Divine Intervention was not inexplicable salvation at the last minute, but rather it was the shipment of arms and armour that had arrived the month before the enemy attacked. It was the preacher whose impassioned sermon inspired a quatermaster to open the door to the armoury. It was the retired Guardsman who rallied those around him for one last charge.
Though the Order of the Iron Tower speak openly of Him on Terra and his obvious Divinity, they warn people against the expectation of miracles. That The Emperor had, in His wisdom, built the Imperium for His people across the galaxy was in itself a miracle beyond equal. That the enemy could be overcome by those with the will to stand and fight was proof that The Emperor watches over His Imperium. The simple act of fighting in His name was to show true devotion to The Emperor.
This creed, though at first mockingly derided as "miracles in the mundane" by detractors, quickly caught on within the Order. The impassioned sermon given by Canoness Aragi in the hours before the battle of Byrnfeldt Hive saw the loyalists within the city muster in their near-entirety and march to war with the Sisterhood, turning what would have been a brutal, protracted guerrilla combat action into a complete rout in the favour of the Imperials.
Over time, what has come to be known as "The Iron Creed" by religious figures around the Glastheim Rifts has gone on to define the character of the Order of the Iron Tower. Those that follow the Iron Creed are steadfast, courageous and resolute even in the face of annihilation.
The Iron Creed caused something of a stir amongst local Ecclesiarchical circles, and was the source of much intense debate amongst theologists for many years. However, the Order's absolute dedication to the Church, proven over several centuries of servitude, and their willingness to fight even the most heinous of foes with neither respite nor hesitation has earned the Order of the Iron Tower the respect of the clergy around the Glastheim Rifts.
One quirk of the Iron Creed that often stays within the Order is a distrust bordering on emnity with the Space Marines. Though the Glastheim Rifts are protected from invasion by the so-called 'Silver Circle', an alliance of Space Marine Chapters, the Order of the Iron Tower have little tolerance for would-be protectors who waste the majority of their time focusing on battle with aliens instead of eradicating the Great Enemy lurking within the Rifts.
Nevertheless, with a history spanning several centuries of hard-fought battles against the most perfidious and twisted of foes, the Order of the Iron Tower remains not only a bastion of Faith, but a true shield against the darkness around the Glastheim Rifts.
"We cannot promise divinity, but we can promise intervention." - Canoness Abithara, 067.M42
In the aftermath of the awakening of the Great Rift, the Order of the Iron Tower have taken an ever-more aggressive fight to the constant lurking spectre of heresy. Stretched thin at times, and struggling to protect the entirety of the Glastheim Pilgrimage route, it is not uncommon to see Sisters of the Iron Tower accompanied by bands of fanatical warrior-pilgrims, dour and steadfast Imperial regiments, or even the techno-savants of the Adeptus Mechanicus as they take to the fields of war.
The Order has proven to be a long-enduring thorn in the side of the Blades of Atracia, the Warband of heretics who mastermind the endless cult uprisings around the Rifts. More of these white-clad heretic Astartes have perished at the hands of the Order of the Iron Tower than in battle with any other force.
In 009.M42, a shipment of weapons and armour bound for the Spirit of Albanastra went missing. Two months later, the Spirit came across the corpse-strewn debris of the Forge-ship that had made the journey. A dozen years later, the Order of the Iron Tower were alerted to the presence of what appeared to be another Order in the Glastheim Rifts; a force calling themselves the Order of the Light Unceasing.
Investigations, carried out discreetly, soon revealed that this "Order" was false. They wore stolen, repainted armour and accompanied the Blades of Atracia on their vile crusade to convert faithful citizens to the worship of the "Great Gods". A careful campaign of misdirection and espionage by members of the clergy eventually brought this false Order to battle as they attempted to sway the world of Mastari to darkness. The Order of the Iron Tower enclosed them, attacking from all sides.
As soon as the battle began, the Order of the Light Unceasing abandoned all pretence, sacrificing dozens of converts and even some of their own number to flood the battlefield with a tide of Daemons. Though this bought time for a handful of the imposter Sororitas to flee, most of the Order of the Light Unceasing were wiped out that day.
In 188.M42, a rare co-ordinated strike alongside the Warminds Chapter of Space Marines saw the sisters aboard the Argent Victory engage the Blades of Atracia in orbit around the factory-moon of Ausbech, successfully boarding their Strike Cruiser Spear of Truth and fighting a ferocious battle against roughly a hundred Chaos Space Marines and their innumerable serfs and servants. Though victory came at the cost of over three hundred and fifty slain Sisters, the battle culminated in Sister Estelda martyring herself to strike down the Riftmark leading the Blades of Atracia, dealing a truly decisive blow to the heretics' plans and shattering their co-ordination in that quadrant of the Rifts for many years afterward.
No matter what perils may yet come, The Order of the Iron Tower stands vigil, their faith still strong and their discipline unwavering.
[More to be added at a later date, if needed]
"All the strength in the world won't help you if you lack the courage to use it. Stand up, girl. Keep fighting!" ~ Sister Katusa, Order of the Iron Tower, to an aspirant
The Order of the Iron Tower do not recruit from a single world, but instead take suitable candidates from the shrine worlds along the Glastheim Pilgrimage route. Each of the fleets the Order accompanies has facilities suitable for the training and development of prospective recruits.
Potential recruits for the Order are thoroughly screened at all steps of their training, lest the foulness of corruption lurk within their hearts. The training itself is highly intense, a series of brutal combat drills and trials interwoven with study of the Iron Creed, its philosophies and virtues.
Of the worlds the Order draws recruits from, three in particular are known to produce a high volume of suitable candidates for the Sisterhood.
In the south of the Glastheim Rifts lays Narrigost, a world that has withstood over a dozen sieges by the faithless and the heretical. Every city is a fortification, and even the churches on Narrigost are designed to withstand siege situations and repel invaders. Sisters hailing from Narrigost tend to be uncompromising and zealous in equal measure, their faith and grit armouring their minds as solidly as the armour that protects their bodies.
In the East of the Rifts is Sagitar's World, a mostly-frozen world that was, at one time, owned wholly by the Valstrax Mechanicus. Lost to the Imperium after an attack by the Blades of Atracia, Cardinal von Lochlane spearheaded the reclaimation himself in the final years before his death. Though he claimed the surface for the Imperium at large, von Lochlane bequeathed the mineral wealth of Sagitar's World back to Valstrax, building small churches to the Omnissiah and allowing the Forgeworld to re-open the mining camps that had survived the Heretic's attack intact. Recruits coming from Sagitar's World generally have a greater affinity with machines than their Sisters, and are a Canoness's first choice for diplomacy whenever the Valstraxi are involved.
Finally, on the northernmost edge of the Pilgrimage routes is Koruke, a hive world built on a foundation of strict customs that focus on proper veneration of The Emperor. Resolute discipline and a reverence for authority - especially religious authority - are virtually universal traits amongst the people of Koruke, making them excellent servants of the Church. Recruits from Koruke frequently exemplify these traits, staying calm and taking only decisive actions even under fire.
With most of the Order's divisions having a mix of recruits from all three worlds, plus more than a dozen others besides, the Order of the Iron Tower has no shortage of recruits. If life around the Glastheim Rifts was anything besides an eternal war of attrition against ungodly forces, the Order would no doubt thrive. Life in the Rifts being what it is, however, the Sisterhood often needs to undertake extensive recruitment drives in the wake of the horrific battles they face on a constant basis.
"To fight for The Emperor is to fight with honour. There can be no such thing as an unjust battle fought in His name." - Canoness Sefaya, 922.M40
The Iron Creed, as touched upon earlier, is the collected tenets of the Order of the Iron Tower. Serving as both the Order's religious centre and military guide, the Iron Creed is in many ways the heart of the Order.
Even within their creed, however the Order of the Iron Tower is perhaps best defined at their very core by the first line of their creed: "The Emperor protects most those who Protect themselves." Or, in more traditional terms, if you fight to preserve His Imperium, then He will give you the strength to do so. Cowardice is a sin against The Emperor, but to show courage is to praise Him.
But to dismiss the above as the be-all and end-all of the Iron Creed would be a mistake - the Creed itself has adapted somewhat over the centuries, as historic battles and influential Canonesses have left their marks on the Order.
The Iron Creed has always placed a focus on disciplined combat over blind zeal, but it was Canoness Masuyo in 724.M40 who first penned a detailed sermon on how it behooved the Order to value survival equally to martyrdom, in order show an example of how one should live for The Emperor, and not just how one should die for Him. Masuyo was a great advocate of endurance as a virtue, and stated several times throughout her life that survival was simply a matter of supplies - always preparing for a longer, fiercer fight than you expect to face.
After the protracted, casualty-heavy campaign against the Cult of Bliss in 905.M40, this teaching took a stronger hold, alongside the rise of Canoness Sefaya. The Canoness had long been of the opinion that honour had no place on the battlefield, and was more than happy to vanquish heretics through tactics previously considered 'underhanded' by the Order. Setting traps, cutting off supply lines, starving heretics to death or otherwise fighting the enemy where they could not defend themselves.
After Sefaya's death in 916.M40 and the eventual promotion of many of her students to prominent roles, the Order of the Iron Tower adopted many of her teachings into their doctrines, pairing the Order's already fierce resolve with a keenly vindictive mindset and greater grasp of long-term strategic planning.
In such ways, the Iron Creed has adapted over the centuries.
While other Orders will recount great miracles of faith and salvation, made possible by the direct intervention of Him on Terra, the Order of the Iron Tower's history is almost entirely bereft of such examples. The Sororitas of the Iron Tower instead view such miracles as vanishingly rare and precious things, given only to those who enact His will with all their heart, mind, body and soul. Miracles are neither to be asked for nor expected by followers of the Iron Creed - He has already given you your weapons, your armour, your training, and your courage. To ask more of The Emperor would be gross disrespect of the gifts He has already given you. Those who claim to have witnessed miracles - outside of the distinguished ranks of the Ecclesiarchy - are treated with extreme scepticism by the Order of the Iron Tower.
The Order's dislike of the Adeptus Astartes partially stems from the percieved preoccupation of the Silver Circle with the xenos surrounding the Glastheim Rifts, but also from the Order's multiple clashes with Heretic Astartes. The warbands that have dwelt in the Rifts over the millennia have been the Order's ultimate foe, but have also caused the Sororitas to view Space Marines as little more than fallible, corruptible, pompous weapons of war, rather than Emperor-ordained Angels of Death.
"Afraid? That's natural. But overcoming that fear is the path to victory, and to The Emperor." ~ Sister Superior Purnama to her squadmates, before the battle of Helnist Field, 114.M41
The Order of the Iron Tower is a fairly flexible combat force, equally adept at defending cities or rooting out heretic encampments. Often the Sororitas are accompanied by their numerous allies, be they fanatical pilgrims, sly Rogue Traders or dispassionate servants of the Mechanicus. In most situations, these allies will bow to the whims of the Adepta Sororitas once battle is inevitable, such is the renown of the Order's mastery of combat.
Warfare as undertaken by Order of the Iron Tower is primarily conducted as close-range firefights where possible, to better utilise their blessed flamer and melta weapons. However, the Order typically avoids melee combat save for as a last resort. Sisters who have undertaken the vows of penance and become Repentia, or those bound to Penitent Engines, are generally reserved for counter-assualt tactics, or planned ambushes to tie up particularly vicious foes and buy their sisters time to reposition and better entrench themselves against the foe.
"Sixteen more martyred today. A dozen prospects picked up from the Pilgrim Fleet. No idea how long they'll last." ~ Private writings of Canoness Marel, 335.M41
Thanks to the ancient pacts and accords made in the time of Cardinal von Lochlane, The Order of the Iron Tower consists primarily of three Preceptories, each one assigned to one of the fleets patrolling the Glastheim Pilgrimage.
The precise number of Adepta Sororitas in the Order of the Iron Tower is constantly in flux. By the nature of the conflicts they face, every battle is simply part of a larger war of attrition. Few indeed are the battles won without loss of life. With each conflict, the list of the martyred grows, and every woman in the Order is confronted with their own mortality on a near-daily basis.
This is, however, offset by the large amount of recruits the Order can draw upon. With more than a dozen worlds serving as potential recruitment grounds even before drawing on willing young women in the Pilgrim Fleets, the Order of the Iron Tower boasts a seemingly never-ending supply of fresh recruits.
Besides the main fleets, supplementary garrison forces exist on a handful of key Shrine Worlds, usually consisting of a dozen or less Battle Sisters assigned to the defence of sites of religious significance. Handfuls of Sisters can also be assigned as bodyguards for notable members of the Imperial Clergy, or as safeguards for the Order's numerous allies.
At such, the Order's numbers have fluctuated wildly over the millennia. At rare times, the Order has had more trained Sororitas than they had Power Armour for them to wear. At other times, the Order has had over half its' stock of weapons and armour kept ensconced in blessed shrines aboard their ships, awaiting new owners.
Regardless of their numbers, the resolve of the Sisterhood has never wavered - cowardice is a betrayal of The Emperor, and the Iron Creed binds the Order to their courage.
Call: "Forged in Faith!"
Response: "Tempered in War!"
EDIT 17/04/2020: Added a handful of quotes, hopefully snappy and suitable enough for the Order of the Iron Tower.
As always, thoughts, opinions, criticisms and stern reprimands for doing this all wrong always welcome.
Edited by Ace Debonair, 22 April 2020 - 06:03 PM.