Numeration: The II Legion
Primogenitor: Merkar Brune , the Great Maker.
Cognomen: The Steel Sons (Early informal references were made by Terran sources to the II Legion as Iron Hunters, Seekers, and, by opponents, Iron Locusts).
Observed Strategic Tendencies: Reconnaissance in force, extensive armour support, mechanised infantry deployment, seek and secure missions, low-collateral territory capture.
Notable Domains: Babel system, centred on the hive-state of Uruk.
By the time the Emperor began His mission to bring about the unification of Terra, the cradleworld of Mankind had become the archetype by which the Age of Strife would be defined. Civilisations collapsed to anarchy and barbarism under the weight of bloodshed and atrocity, and once great achievements of technological progress were turned to abomination or lost to superstitious ignorance. Yet on Terra, as on many of its scattered outposts and lonely daughter worlds across the stars, there were also those who kept the light of knowledge kindled, preserving such knowledge as they could and rejecting the lure of Old Night’s black science.
Though often fragmented or misunderstood, and regularly turned towards some use in the perpetual wars that dominated the Age of Strife, this legacy of technoarcana would serve as one of the pillars on which the Emperor’s ambition for Humanity would be built as he led it, as one body, back towards the heavens.
Origin: Seekers of the Lost
The earliest history of the II Legion stands representative of the difficulties in documenting that turbulent early period when the Emperor’s armies were still at large consolidating Terra under the banner of Unification, equally in parts well documented and obscured, and, allegedly, censored in some aspects. From what can be gathered, they, alongside the IXth, they were one of the first Legions to be founded following the successes of the Tetraic Formation that proved beyond doubt the value of the Astartes Project, overlapping in aspects of initial recruitment base and training, referred to in the rare surviving documentation from the Emperor’s gene-labs as Gemini Technis.
Selecting heavily from the technomads of the Thulian Basin and the war-clans of Old Albia, shared legacies of technomantic skill, determined survival instinct, and canny warfare were forged together in the Legion’s initial recruitment cycle, setting the template for those who came after. As the Emperor’s armies brought more of Terra under His banner, the IInd would cement a preference for drawing on the youth of similar peoples, who were often also those they had only recently fought against. The Samaric gun-clans and Sek Amrak tek-enclaves were notable for providing whole companies of recruits and leaving their own distinct marks on the Legion’s character, but various pockets of Humanity across the cradle of Humanity would contribute to their number over the Unification Wars’ waning years.
First deployed as part of a larger Legion battle-group involved in the Mesamerican Pacification, II Legion companies were often dispatched to secure secondary objectives and hold key target sites, or held as a rapid reserve to be thrown at both weak points revealed in the enemy line, and as a flanking force against counterattacks. Some evidence suggests the Legion being put through a period of testing here, and certainly it was common for newly founded Legions to fight first alongside those who were more established, though other factors suggest an obfuscation of their true purpose there under the guise of taking part in the overt campaign under way. Tellingly, the first solo combat honour awarded to the IInd, dating from this same period, carries almost no detail as to the mission that earned it, noting only ‘Success at Vault Φ’.
As an independent force, at least some facet of the Emperor’s design for the II Legion could be clearly seen. It had never merely been His intent to conquer, but to raise Mankind again to the heights it once knew and from there beyond. Yet throughout the Age of Strife it had come to be that so much was lost, and that which remained became shrouded in ritual and ignorance. The past became lost to myth, or jealousy guarded and hoarded away, much of it in the hands of those who also rejected the Emperor’s vision for Humanity and turned what they possessed against him or destroyed it out of spite. It was in these cases that companies or chapters of the IInd were most regularly deployed, attached to wider campaigns or sent alone into the desolation of Terra to secure these treasured, or despised, fragments. The first, semi-official, references to the IInd as Iron Hunters stem from one such mission, a month-long hunter-raider campaign in the depths of Anatol hive, with variants on the theme growing in use following similar missions elsewhere.
The Legion was also to provide escorts to a number of the Emperor’s mortal agencies as they themselves toiled to uncover the lost lore and glories of Mankind’s past, the third company going on to bear the icon of the Conservators Order after spending five years guarding them in the wilderness of Nesos Oceania. Less openly, and referred to only obliquely in official communique, were instances where the objective was the destruction, or at least containment, of proscribed technologies. Twisted tech-heresies and abominations remaining from Old Night, the Emperor would not countenance their remaining at large, or at least outside His control. In consequence of these tasks, the IInd came to know of things not widely circulated, even among the Legiones Astartes, and were one of the few to grant a measure of respect to their cousins in the XIII Legion.
Beyond enemy lines or at the limits of logistic support, where resupply was erratic and much could only be decided after arrival, the inventive cunning and rugged independence of the IInd served it well, a respectable roll of honour mapping out its contribution to the Unification Wars. On an individual basis, legionnaires displayed a cold objectivity in their decision making, matched by the furnace of powerful emotion they kept carefully banked until the time came to release it. Out of battle they garnered a reputation comparable to the XVth, though rarely to the extent that disciplinary action was needed.
Unsurprisingly from a Legion that placed such a high value on technical skill and ingenuity, the Steel Sons held a well earned reputation for the quality of their artifice, and it was not uncommon for legionnaires to maintain, or even manufacture, their own armour and personal arms. Personal modifications were widespread, especially to warplate, and the workmanship achieved was a point of pride. Unlike some artificer orders, there was no inherent value in the individuality of creations, and it was a recognised and noted honour for other legionnaires to seek instruction on how to duplicate another’s work. This practice helped ensure the spread of both best practice and the most effective designs, and helped establish bonds between newly initiated and veteran Legion brothers. Ultimately, the efforts of the IInd came to their height with the Mk IV ‘Bladebreaker’ warplate that went on to mass production on Mars and other forgeworlds.
This aptitude would also have a number of effects on the Legion’s choice and deployment of war gear, with long-standing preferences for the Sol Militaris patterns of heavy weapon and Phobos pattern bolt weapons, both considered more maintenance-intensive and difficult to produce than the patterns more widely used over the mid and later Great Crusade era, but recognised as more accurate and powerful. Beyond the specific equipment used, the Legion armoury was well stocked with war gear and munitions of the highest calibre, exceeding on both measures that of almost all its peers.
Simultaneously to its lone, or specially targeted, missions, the Legion was visible alongside its peers at the forefront of the Unification’s last great battles, already recognised for their swift and decisive manoeuvres and skill at short-range firefights. In campaigns as far apart and varied as the Pacific trench clearances, clashes across the Merican dust-wilds, and running battles to take the Troit hive-slums, battle companies refined the tactics and strategies that would become their early hallmark; reconnaissance in force, anti-materiel raids, and swift seek-and-assault missions. The strategy later known as ‘hammer and pick’ was first formulated over the Sudafric Liberation alongside the III Legion, massed assault formations pinning the enemy in place and revealing weak points that specialist forces could exploit, oddly prescient in light of later techniques employed under their Primach’s command.
When the Emperor came to bring His dream of unity to the rest of the solar system and, from there, the wider galaxy, the IInd continued to serve in the manner established on Terra, notably providing an honour guard to techno-archaeologist Arkhan Land over the Great Crusade. The growing body of machine lore held within the Legion’s ranks, built on a foundation of training by the Imperial Houshold’s own artificers, repeatedly proved its value and effectiveness, and came to colour the nature of campaign on which the War Council dispatched it, though the seeds of future friction with the Mechanicum were also sown. The Mican Aggregation, a sprawling man-made space-hulk to the galactic east of Terra, stands as the greatest of many honours earned in the initial Crusade Era, and one of the few earned by the deployment of the Iron Hunters as a whole.
The skills possessed by the IInd were in high demand as the young Imperium began to encounter novel remnants from the Age of Technology and hunted down rumoured scraps and fragments of lore and artifice previously thought lost. As on Terra, much would owe its continued existence to the very danger in which it rested, deliberate, accidental or otherwise in nature, or was in the hands of degenerate warlords and others who denied the Imperium’s destiny. In the majority of cases, only the Iron Hunters combined the knowledge base, practical experience, and raw grit to acquire them intact, with the trend being for chapters, and on occasion lone companies, to be attached to other Expeditionary Fleets. These detachments continued the practice of recruiting from suitable populations as they encountered them, but with the Legion now increasingly scattered there was a growing divide between them that looked set to threaten the integrity of the Legion as whole.
The Great Maker
The II Legion would be united with their gene-sire, and reunited with each other, mere decades after the departure of the first Expeditionary Fleets, the capsule of the II Primarch having come to rest in the solar marches of Segmentum Tempestus on the far fallen world of Babel.
Tales of the Fall
The work of historiographers and archeo-savants has done little more to uncover the pre-Strife history of Babel than can be told from walking its surface and observing the pre-Imperial conditions of those who call it home. A prosperous world of soaring hive-towers and advanced industry, most likely a central node in the network of worlds that supported the monumental civilisation built by Humanity in the golden age that preceded Old Night.
The oral histories kept by the techno-barbarian peoples that inhabited Babel at the time Brune’s capsule crashed upon it are principally works of allegory, rather than absolute fact. But in them can be found common themes, representations, and story elements that, together with the physical evidence gathered, point towards the truths that inspired their telling.
Strong evidence indicates a short, brutal period of orbital bombardment specifically targeting the bases of Babel’s hives , though who this was by is impossible now to tell, and much muddled in native legend. Various versions speak of it as punishment, cruel act of denial, or spiteful pre-emptive strike, and offers both an unnamed overlord from off-world and the Masters of the spire pinnacles themselves as responsible for what occurred. Very often there is a conflict in which the world’s response is found wanting, pointing towards some connection to the ‘war between men of stone and men of iron’ mentioned in other Strife-era histories and legends. Invariably, however, it is survivors from those who toiled in ‘forges bent to the service of the stars’ that go on to ensure the survival of those who make it through the initial destruction, and whose leaders set the course of civilisation thereafter, most existing as semi-mythical ancestors in the modern era. In comparison, the degenerate marauder tribes that prowel the wilderness are always descendants of those who came from above, sometimes linked to the inhabitants of the spires’ upper levels and other times to scavengers from offworld, who reject offers to join the new societies being built.
The people who found and raised the Primarch were indicative of the type found across Babel. Inventive and determined survivalists to the last, they were a technically skilled society that owed much of its structure to hierarchies of manufactoria workers and artificer guilds. Sheltering within fortified settlements from the harsh conditions and debased tribes of the wastelands, threads of harsh pragmatism, group loyalty, and the value of proven personal skill ran through the culture that evolved, lessons that would inform the mind and spirit of the young Primarch as he swiftly grew.
Exact information on the Primarch’s youth is erratic in nature, a result of the particular storytelling preferences of the Babelic, intended as much to be teaching tools as accurate historical accounts, intermixed with precise technical references. It is known that he was discovered by a prospector-bands based in the township of Chal, one of many sent into the surrounding badlands by the scattered enclaves and agro-shanties, who returned both the child Primarch and his incubation pod to their home settlement. Investigation of the capsule, damaged though it was, showed clearly the technological mastery of its creators, and hinted at the origin of the child found within it lying in the stars beyond. Clan Brune, then newly risen to first among equals in Chal, adopted the Primarch, naming him Merkar after the ancestor from whom they claimed descent.
Even as he absorbed all that Chal offered in lore and technique, both of which he would raise to new heights, it was the hardy prospector bands that captured the heart of the rapidly growing Primarch. Travelling in motorised convoys that traced their designs and concept back to the industrial transport rigs that helped maintain the ancient industrial stacks of the past, the prospectors were reminiscent of the archeotechnologists who plumbed the mysteries of Terra’s past, scouring the scrap-barrens and macro-ruins for intact relic-machinery or valuable scrap, fighting off marauders, and trading between settlements and each other. In all of these roles Brune excelled before even full grown; fair but shrewd in bargaining, preternatural in his ability to uncover long hidden machinery and bring to functionality, a brutally cunning fighter when called to combat.
As an adult he pushed the bounds of his people’s technoarcana and forge-mastery, becoming leader of his clan and then Chal itself in short order through a combination of unequalled physical and intellectual prowess harnessed to a natural talent for command, and a long term eye for the community’s future. It was in this position of authority that Brune started to develop in earnest the ideas that would change Babel in ways no one could have foreseen, but even before that vision was made real he led his people around into a period of unprecedented prosperity. The Primarch’s mind was a font of new techniques, methods and designs extrapolated from the artefacts and records that remained. They allowed the population to grow, better tools and equipment to be built, and finer buildings raised. Soon these would be seen replicated in other settlements that kept contact with Chal as Brune travelled to teach his craft and lore, and draughting schematics of his work to be sent back with those who came from further afield to discover if the tales of the Great maker were true. Building on the goodwill he fostered, Brune organised and led the first campaigns to rid the surrounding lands of marauders, fought with new weapons and armour of his devising, and staged cooperative efforts to uncover ancient troves that would have otherwise gone undiscovered by any group, or be impossible to retrieve working alone.
These achievements by themselves would have secured him an honoured place in his homeworld’s history, but were only a prelude, a scale test of what Brune envisaged the people of Babel capable of if he could bring them together. The Fall had scattered them, forcing them apart so that the strength he knew they had was rendered useless and their birthright unattainable. But he now meant to challenge that destiny, and with the circle of artificers and savants he gathered around him set to making it a reality.
Reaching for the stars
Brune aimed for nothing less than a return to the glories of the past, tempered now with the wisdom learned from its collapse. In a grand conclave that drew visitors from across continental distances, the Primarch set forth his vision, a towering edifice as their ancestors once built that would scrape the heavens. Uruk, he named it, after the legendary first city to be raised on Babel and now to be the first city of a new era again. Diagrams and schematics were brought out, not only for the new arcology but for the tools and machinery needed to build it, and the new settlements that would house and provide for those who laboured on its completion. It would be a project like none before, the work of generations and the effort of all the people of Babel united again towards a common goal.
Even with a Primarch’s superhuman ability it was no easy feat bringing the people of Babel together behind his plan, for theirs was not the way of dreams and unproven ideas. Like an avalanche, however, one began, it could not be stopped. As word spread across the world, Chal became the epicentre for a wave of migration, the worker-towns becoming cities in their own right, ringing the cyclopean foundations that would support Brune’s tower.
The Emperor would arrive in orbit of Babel as the first stage of Uruk’s construction neared completion, though whether by chance or design is unknown. There he found a son that understood completely His vision for Mankind, and did not simply accept their place in it but embraced it. Brune swore absolutely to his Father’s dream for so long as He held true to the ideals He claimed to uphold, and unlike a number of his siblings made no demand, nor set any challenge before the Emperor, before giving it.
Tower of Babel
Beyond any hope or expectation of those who first began work on it, Uruk would see completion within their lifetimes, though still not until decades of labour were put into it. After the coming of the Emperor, Brune was eager to bring the advantages of Imperial technology and science to Babel, directing an overhaul of the planet’s industrial base more extensive than any that had gone before or could have been imagined.
With new technology and knowledge at his disposal, Brune expanded on the original concept, the new design finalised in the wake of the Inwit Campaign. Now it would reach even further, a tsiolkovsky tower connecting it to an orbital spacefort hanging in the void. In output it would not only support the population within, but the needs of Humanity beyond and the Great Crusade, mirroring its role in the long distant past.
On Terra, Brune would spend the greater part of his time in the forges of the Terrawatt Clan and private workshops of the Imperial Household, imparting the techniques of his own unparalleled craft just as they taught him the secret techniques and techno-arcana held solely by those artisans who laboured to supply the Emperor’s Hands and Talons. On the red dust of Mars he matched wit and knowledge with the Magos of the Mechanicum, but left with little respect for their cultish manner even as he acknowledged the talent and capacity seen in their Forges. Under the Emperor’s eye he would fashion the first iteration of a panoply of war that would serve him across the great crusade, rebuilt and improved on time and again.
With the Imperium still young amongst the stars, all of Brune’s as yet recovered brothers would be able to reach Terra while he apprenticed under their Father’s tutelage, and the beginning of a longstanding friendship between the Great Maker and the White Tiger would be first sparked in that initial gathering. At this stage of the Great Crusade, however, there was still much pressure on the Emperor’s armies to solidify the Imperium’s hold over the territory it had claimed, and bring the light of enlightenment to a galaxy still smothering under Old Night’s shroud. So it was that Brune prepared for a departure too soon in coming, the widespread elements of the II Legion already in the final stages of gathering in the Throneworld’s skies, and his duty to lead them waiting. The promise made between Emperor and Primarch was further sealed before his departure with the gift of a bolt pistol, Vigilance, said to have been crafted by the Master of Mankind himself.
Despite the image put forth by the Remembrancers of the time, there would always be points of disagreement, on one matter or another and to varying degrees, between the Legions, and at times between them and the other component bodies of the wider Imperium. Most, by far, were ultimately minor issues, conflicts such as all siblings experience between each other, and of the rest, few were outside the range that could be worked around in light of the unifying Loyalty all held to the Emperor.
Of these later issues, one of the most long running and unexpected would involve the Primarch of the II Legion and the Mechanicum of Mars, despite both being in all other ways known as logical and pragmatic in their reasoning. In essence rubbing raw a point of contention reaching back to the very treaty that bound Terra and Mars, Brune held a, largely private, disdain for the Cult Mechanicus in the way it distorted, in his eyes, the advancement of Human knowledge and the spread of its benefits to Mankind.
What should have been to many the closest relationship between the Mechanicum and Legiones Astartes was thus rendered a distant, clinical thing at the institutional level, efficient for the desire to not inflame further dispute. At the same time, Brune held good personal relations with a number of Magos, and a small network of archeotechnologists who in their long travels away from forge and fane had come to lean in direction that approached apostasy.
Between their arrival on Babel as Iron Hunters and return to the Great Crusade as Steel Sons, the II Legion would undergo significant revision at the hands of their Primarch, in training, organisation, and combat doctrine. But as the Remembrancer J.M. Morris would note, an ineffable effect had come about merely from the meeting of the legionnaires and the newfound father. In his essays he remarks that the Legion ‘could not have ever been more true to itself. I call it a change, yet it is not. Better a word be created for becoming more entirely yourself.’ A pattern that would be seen across the Legions, simply the presence of their Primarch brought about some metamorphosis that had sat untriggered with them, a final calibration of the Emperor’s superlative gene-craft bonding them together.
On the surface of Babel, the remaining threats and dangers of the wilderness were cleared by the IInd alongside its native sons and daughters, and together they sought out the secrets and relics still hidden on it. Brune put little truck in distant reports and paper promises made about his newfound sons, when it came to those he fought and laboured with there was no room for the doubt or the late discovery of some lacking factor. On Babel, the first measure of a stranger was in the repute of the one introducing them, and there was no one as yet that could forge a new link in that chain between the Imperum and the Primarch. So it was here, chapter by company by squad, he would judge the strength of their mettle and quality of their substance. Instructing his sons in the lessons and wisdom of his experience, he heard from them in turn of their accomplishments and victories, where their pride sat and what purpose they held true within themselves. What might have come from failure none could say or ever will, for on the blasted face of Babel they proved themselves under his demanding gaze and gained his commitment in turn.
Under his firm hand, the unity that had been left to corrode following their departure from Terra was renewed, and alloyed further with fresh blood from the youth of Babel that passed Brune’s arduous trials. With a firm hand, the best of the old ways and new were cut and fashioned into new forms, while that which was deemed wanting was cast aside. As with the sons cast in his image, the Great Maker showed a ruthlessly clarity in his decision making, for all the passionate fire of his hearts. The greatest of purposes lay before them and by no failure of his Legion would it be jeopardised. To some who met him it seemed an unnerving balance, a war, surely, between furnace soul and void-chill mind, yet it was that very combination which saw him reach the heights of accomplishments and sublime mastery of skill to which he set himself.
When at last the ranks of the reforged Legion stood before him, ready by his reckoning to return to the Great Crusade, Brune gave them final validation and commitment. ‘You came here as hunters of iron, strangers in my eyes claiming kinship untested. But hear me now. You are my steel-forged sons, and as you have proven yourselves to me so now it is I who will prove myself to you.’
Brune’s first campaign would establish his credentials as a warleader of renown, able to seize and consolidate victory without leaving ruin in his wake. Bringing the Inwit cluster cleanly into the Imperial fold, he gained the respect of its tenacious armies even as his columns forced them to kneel in submission. It was a principle of the Legion that war was a means to an end, and when it came to the worlds of Mankind, the defeat of an enemy was no victory if the cost was devastation. Only worlds that, once taken, could contribute to mankind’s fight for a better future were worthy of listing upon the adamantium pillars of their fortress. Likewise, as it fought, so the Legion also rebuilt, and while the speed of its advance may not have been so swift as others, the worlds it brought into compliance were quickly able to take their place as productive cogs in the Great Crusade, an expanding chain of supply and support for the Imperial Army and Legion both.
United now with their Primarch and each other, the Steel Sons became one of the driving forces of the Imperium’s expansion into the uncharted regions of the galaxy, an unstoppable force that was compared to the ancient legions of the Romani Empire who built their own roads as they advanced. With Explorators and Rogue Traders fanning out before them into the unknown, the IInd Legion set a steady march, extending the hand of unity to hundreds of lost and scattered worlds, casting down tyrants and warlords who clung to the darkness of Old Night, and slaying the xenos species that would gainsay Humanity’s supremacy among the stars.
Though still often called on by the War Council to bring its skills and talents to bear in aid of other Expeditionary Fleets, these were now clearly set and defined missions, not the indefinite secondments of the past that had threatened the stability and cohesion of the old Legion. More commonly, it would be the full strength of the IInd that came as the principal force sent to those targets seen as suitable for their methods, building on their strengths while leaving other forces to fight where they were less suitable in temperament or habit.
Unit and Formation Structure within the Legion
The alloyed passion and pragmatism that ran through the Steel Sons found their most powerful expression in their Primarch, and he in turn folded it back upon them like a smith forging fine steel. So when Brune set to reforming his newfound sons could be seen to be a matter of refinement rather as outright change.
The Terran-pattern Legion structure was well proven and battle tested, and saw little overt change from before the Primarch assumed command. In the manner of how it was applied however, not inconsiderable change took place to best fit the needs and war doctrine of the IInd. Mid-scale formations became set as part of the standard order of battle, and overall unit size was increased, with 300 strong cohorts, 900 strong battalions, and 2700 strong chapters being aimed for above company level, with allowances for casualties and recruitment cycles. As part of a greater whole, each chapter was modeled on the same pattern; a solid core of line infantry backed by specialist units distributed through each level of organisation, with its own dedicated contingent of armour. By design, any component part could be taken and deployed independently without loss of combat effectiveness, or combined with elements drawn from any number of other formations and be expected to integrate without difficulty. In the case of known factors, this allowed the Legion to smoothly assemble tailored forces suitable to the situation, while in the face of the unknown it relied on a clear-headed ability to quickly assess and adapt to changing circumstances in order to carry the day, backed up by deep veins of determination and inventive cunning.
The manner of fighting seen on Babel, and the Primarch’s own preferences, influenced the deployment and preference towards certain unit types. Rarely used and little loved, the destroyer cadre would steadily wither over the course of the Crusade, while the Librarius was a lesser example of its kind even before Brune’s arrival. Conversely, the Steel Sons’ line infantry, coldly adaptable, passionately decisive, and largely self-sufficient, were forever at the forefront, and in their father’s eyes the key means by which wars were won. Though numerous, the majority of legionnaires otherwise trained for specialist roles deployed in the role of line troopers until their specific skills were needed, a contrast of note with the I Legion’s arrangement of such things. The cultural legacies found in many of the cultures that the Steel Sons drew potential recruits from also ensured many displayed a natural disposition towards close assault, as well as the technological skill the Legion was known for. In this latter area, many observers noted the low number of dedicated forgewrights in the Legion, a misunderstanding of their role as dedicated master artificers, freed from the day to day efforts of maintaining their brothers’ wargear by the fact that so many were capable of those tasks themselves.
The largest change to come about, and where the influence of Babel’s prospector bands was most clearly visible, was in the use of war engines and armoured support. Whole chapters of rhino- and razorback-mounted mechanised infantry would become the new hallmark of the IInd at war, and land raiders, especially the Proteus and Tutela patterns, were fielded in quantities above what might be expected from a Legion of its size. Outriders, and less commonly land speeder squadrons, were often paired with armour formations in pathfinder and close support roles, with ‘track-rider’ reconnaissance teams sometimes filling the same role in less open terrain.
As might be expected from one as disciplined and as thorough in his preparation as Brune, the Steel Sons’ chain of command was clearly defined and left little room for interpretation. At the pinnacle stood the Great Maker himself, from him flowed authority to the veteran Battle Captains, and then down each rank in turn. In comparison to the short, direct hierarchies employed by some among their brother Legions, the Steel Sons maintained a complex range of ranks and offices, each clear in the authority and responsibilities it carried under which circumstances, and in how it related to those above, below and parallel to it. Labyrinthine though it may have seemed, its effectiveness was undeniable. In practice it also enabled an effective degree of flexibility on the battlefield without admitting the flighty impulsiveness that some Legions displayed.
Inherently tied to this approach was the need for discipline above the common bar, and in this area Brune established quickly that no matter what may pass between them outside of battle, once helms were dawned there was no infraction beyond, or beneath, punishment’s reach. Authority likewise was hard earned, and came with the weight of absolute trust in the ability of the bearer to meet the challenge of carrying it. To fail was to be cast down, literally in most cases, with a return to the ranks the most common admonishment. That it was harsh was without question, but the alternative was seen as far worse, and it was not beyond expectation that those so punished might rise again the wiser for the experience. In part to help guard against such events, those considered as prospective for promotion would serve in an apprenticeship role beneath their superiors, gaining experience and insight while also being judged on their performance. In this arrangement was also a safeguard against the loss of officers in battle, numerous occasions seeing the final test of ability taken in the midst of firefights and bloody assaults.
The IInd made an early departure from the storm grey plate and heraldic patterns laid out in the Dictorum Armourial for Legion use at the time of their founding. Borrowing from the cultures of their initial recruitment, they quickly amassed a body of unique tech-runic detailing that grew with each fresh group that fed the Legion’s growth and lore. The requirements and conditions of their early deployments saw the adoption of camouflage and stealth markings appropriate to the industrial wastes and underhive sprawls they were regularly sent alone into, though environmental conditions equally served to add their own patterns of weathering to the schemes applied. By the departure of the Iron Hunters from Terra and their part in the Solar Conquest, the Legion marched in an ad-hoc array of colours, and as they were separated by the War Council’s dictates,the divergence between companies and chapters was only exasperated, particularly in the application of new armorial details.
Following the discovery of Brune, and the reorganisation that took place following his investment as commander, the Steel Sons adopted a dark steel-grey as their set colour. Under his direction the eclectic range of markings accumulated by the IInd was systematised into a standard pool to be drawn on as required, understood by all across the Legion if not those beyond it. Much as with the Legion’s command hierarchy, armorial detailing was defined by fixed rules and established patterns of usage, with only limited flexibility or approved variation that was mostly in the hands of ranking officers and veteran units. Chief among the new Legion heraldry was the sign of crossed excavation picks, previously the emblem used by the prospector band that found the infant Primarch, and now that of his Legion.
At the outbreak of the Heresy almost the entirety of the Legion was deployed in the final stages of an extermination campaign against the Olamic Quietude, a radically deviant human culture of significant technological resources that had bloodily resisted a sustained Imperial Army invasion attempt. The 109 000 legionnaires that would depart the Olamic homeworld represents a number slightly short of what the Legion maintained across the majority of the Crusade, placing them in the lower bracket of Legion strength based on numbers. In reality, given the quality and quantity of armour and war material in their possession, the Steel Sons were more than capable of standing on an even footing with far larger Legions, as would be later seen.
Over the near two centuries the Steel Sons fought for the Emperor’s dream, they sat balanced between the losses of a regular and rigorous pattern of deployment, and the advantages
of well established and steady recruitment cycles of their homeworld. In addition to those from Babel, and the small number of recruits that continued to arrive from Terra, Brune also had no hesitancy in continuing the practice of recruiting from suitable societies as he campaigned, a practice he was known to favour as one that strengthened the legion as a whole. Regardless of where they came from, the selection process aspirants were put through was known as one of the most stringent of its kind, matching the degree of care spent on maintaining the quality of gene-seed used.
While the Legion fleet was not the largest of its kind, with approximately a hundred capital ships, the quality of artifice on display across it was near unequalled in consistency, even compared to the work of Bithynia or Saturn’s shipyards. Somewhat top-heavy, battle-barges with attendant light cruiser escorts formed its fighting mainstay, screened and circled by heavy frigate squadrons and fast cruisers. The Ascension served as the Great Maker’s flagship for almost the entirety of the Great Crusade, constructed by the shipwrights of Inwit to seal its oath of compliance. The mighty vessel repeatedly proved itself no less than equal to the Gloriana class battleships in service to other Legions, designed by the Primarch’s own hand and built to his demanding specifications and tolerances. The Seputant class battle-barge that was becoming common in the later Crusade-era was directly inspired by its design, the Saturnine shipwrights delivering the first example to the Primarch as a gift of thanks.