THE IRON HANDS
Iron Hands Space Marine Chapter
The Iron Hands have been unforgiving devotees to the Emperor's word since the time of legends, when the god-like Primarchs walked among men. Through countless centuries the Iron Hands have remained unwavering in their faith and belief. They have endured dark years of suffering and pain, where others have faltered and been forgotten by time. They look with disgust on those who lack their strength of will, and punish them without remorse. Their Primarch, Ferrus Manus, is seen as a strong and unwavering warrior-god, the saviour of his people, who will return one day to lead all of humanity from the darkness that besets it from all sides and from within.
At the very dawn of the Imperium, a time of great deeds and mighty battles, Ferrus Manus broke the darkness of the world of Medusa and became the shining light of its people. The sky, perpetually darkened by a great calamity of the long gone ancients, was ripped asunder as Ferrus descended from the heavens amid a great inferno of light. Never before had the primitive human clans of Medusa seen such light, and they were awed and frightened by the fiery display that burned their eyes. The great star crashed into the highest mountain of Medusa, Karaashi, the Ice Pinnacle. The impact shattered the mountain top, burying Ferrus deep in the ice in a tremendous explosion of steam. The land shook under the impact which could be felt the world over. Mountains were toppled, and great chasms were formed as the world rumbled under the coming of the great Primarch.
Years later, the great warrior-god Ferrus walked unscathed and fully formed from the uninhabited mountain ranges of the far northern wastes where the Ice Pinnacle lies. The legends of the roaming clans, taught from father to son throughout the ages, revolve around the early exploits of Ferrus, tales of fantastic acts of strength and endurance. No one could match his strength of arm, try as he might to find a worthy opponent. He sought out every physical challenge that he could, always returning victorious. According to one often recounted mythic tale, he once challenged a Storm Giant to a competition of strength. The giant lifted a mountain between his hands and set it back down a mile away. The giant's laugh died as Ferrus lifted the entire mountain range onto his back, carrying it to a neighbouring island. The humbled giant was never seen again.
Ferrus travelled the length and breadth of Medusa, becoming well known by all its people, and coming to know the land itself as no one ever had. He travelled areas that any other man would have found inaccessible. He climbed the highest mountains, he swam the deepest oceans - always pushing himself and his body, pushing his levels of endurance and strength to nfathomable levels. His strength and fury made him renowned and feared amongst the people of the clans, who valued such qualities highly, and he was uniformly adopted by them as one of their own. He never sought to end the conflicts between the clans, seeing such competition as healthy and strengthening. He always remained neutral, never participating in their feuds so as not to favour one clan over another.
The most famous heroic story of Ferrus was his titanic battle against Asirnoth, the Great Silver Wyrm. This is recounted in the Canticle of the Travels, an epic poem of unknown origin that is still taught to Clan children at their parent's knee. He had stalked the great beast for days through the legendary Land of Shadows - the fearful land of the ancients, a place of great fear and mystery. This place, long since lost, was said to be a land of metal and stone relics of giant proportions, remnants of a forgotten age. The ghost-spirits of the clans are said to roam there once they leave the world of the living. The Canticle describes the monstrous creature as having skin made of living metal that was impervious to harm. Try as he might, Ferrus could not pierce the metal hide of the beast, his fists pummelling harmlessly against it. Fighting the creature for days on end, across continents and seas, Ferrus remained undaunted, confident of his own abilities. He eventually slew the great beast by holding the writhing creature submerged in a lava flow, enduring horrific pain, but bearing it stoically. When he finally removed his arms from the lava, the Wyrm was no more. His hands however were encased in the same living metal that the creature's skin was made of, a metal that was as flexible as flesh, as strong as the hardest ceramite. It is known that myths involving Ferrus and his metal hands precede the Canticle of Travels, but only in the Canticle is this explanation given as to how the metal came to be fused to his body.
He returned to the clans after his travels filled with new and wonderful ideas, which he taught to all who wished to learn. He created strange and powerful weapons and tools out of metal, shaping them with his living metal hands. He taught the clans such wonders that they never could have imagined possible. It was a time of greatness for the people of Medusa -the civilisation of the clans advanced at a tremendous pace, and the people became increasingly strong and proud.
When the heavens split open for the second time in history, and dark Medusa was once again filled with light, the clans were confused and frightened. They could not understand what this might mean for them and their world. They were happy as they were, and saw whatever was coming as a threat. Ferrus did not speak, but left the clans immediately to travel to the Northern Reaches, where the light had descended. The clans grew worried as days passed with no word of their Saviour. A great council was called, the first of its type ever formed on Medusa, with epresentatives from each of the clans present. They argued over what should be done, but could come to no agreement. Days turned to weeks and the people grew desperate in their unease. This unease turned to terror as the land literally erupted beneath their feet. They ran out of the council great-tent in their panic, savage electrical storms ripping the skies asunder above them. They wailed in their dread for the fury of the storm seemed far from natural, and they felt certain the end of their world drew near. The terrible storm assaulted the land for a week and a day, so it is said, after which time an unearthly silence descended. The clans returned to the great council unsure what would come of such dire portents.
The next morning the doors to the great council were thrown wide and Ferrus strode in, esplendent in his magnificence. At his side walked a figure that stood as his equal, a radiant figure who awed the clansmen as much as Ferrus had always done. The very air was said to crackle with the combined power that exuded from the pair, and the bond between them was immediately apparent.
What actually occurred when the two Divine beings met is unknown. The myths surrounding the meeting of these two most powerful and heroic of figures revolve around a clash of wills and power that tore the land asunder. Many of the myths relate to how when Ferrus saw the Emperor, he recognised in him an equal. He strode up the mountains to confront him, confident of his own abilities and wishing to test them against this personage of obvious power. In the ensuing conflict, the two godly beings were evenly matched in all ways, neither being able to better the other. The awesome confrontation of power devastated the landscape, shattering the very heavens and earth alike. Regardless of details, all the stories agree that when the two figures came down from the great northern mountains, the bond and mutual respect between them was unwavering.
Ferrus left Medusa only reluctantly. He was torn between conflicting feelings of loyalty. On the one hand were his people whom he had helped to flourish, his beloved Medusa that had tempered and strengthened him. On the other hand the sense of duty that he felt towards the Emperor was overwhelming. He knew that his people would survive without him, and that his Emperor needed him now. Further, he learnt of his Legion - an entire army of warriors formed in his image, whom he had not even been aware of. Still, he was distraught at the thought of leaving this land and its people that had formed who he was in so many ways.
The Iron Hands Legion, as they came to be known, fought with valour across the galaxy, cutting a deadly swathe through any and all who opposed the Emperor's word - for surely only those who wished humanity ill would reject His Divine teachings. As the need arose, the Legion recruited many of its members from Medusa, and these warriors proved especially resolute both in body and in faith. Ferrus believed passionately in the Emperor's attempt to unify all of humanity. Mankind, Ferrus believed, was in grave danger, not least of all from itself. Unless it stood united, it would slowly be destroyed, piece by piece.
He saw many weak people around him, and saw that infirmity as a plague. He would rather see those weak links of humanity destroyed than have them pose a threat, an unnecessary frailty that would pose a burden to the rest. On Medusa, the weak children were exposed to the elements so as not to place an unnecessary encumbrance on the rest of the community. So too, when the time came that an adult was incapable of providing for the community, that person left their clan. Those who accepted the Emperor's Divine teachings were embraced. Those who did not were cut down without pity. The ruthlessness of the Legion and its Primarch terrified those who stood in the way of their relentless approach, and many worlds turned to the Emperor out of the overwhelming fear of retribution that these callous warriors were becoming renowned for.
It is said that Horus, the first and most trusted of the Emperor's Primarchs, was held in great esteem by Ferrus, who appreciated his martial ideals. The news of Horus' treachery was met with an outrage by the Iron Hands and their Primarch alike. They were disgusted at the weakness of those who they had previously called brothers. Their Holy Crusade had led them to a far outlying section of the galaxy, and Ferrus fumed over their remote position. Nevertheless, full of righteous anger the Iron Hands turned their ships for Istvaan V, where the traitorous Warmaster was gathering his might. Ferrus despaired for humanity, when it seemed that even the most devoted of battle brothers could be turned from their divine mission. He raged at the flaws of his fellow men, all of whom seemed susceptible to weakness except those of his own Legion. He became even more strict on himself and his brothers, training against such dangerous fragility in all its forms.
Ferrus chose the fastest of the Legion's ships, and together with his most veteran troops, sped towards Istvaan V ahead of the rest of the Legion. As they had feared, the majority of the fleet arrived too late to take part in the attack, and it was with dread and horror that they learnt of the disastrous treachery that had greeted their Primarch's attack. He and the Veterans joined with six other Legions in the planetary assault. Ferrus spearheaded the attack with two other Legions, suffering horrendous casualties as they dropped into the planet's atmosphere. The four Legions that were backing up the initial attack turned on the unprotected flank of the loyalists in an unforeseen betrayal, sealing the doom of the Legions, who were massacred in the ensuing battle.
What became of the great Primarch Ferrus remains a mystery. It is known that when the Legions showed their true colours, he realised his impending doom and attacked the traitors with renewed fury, so desperate was he to face Horus. The number of the Iron Hands were few, however, and they alone were not enough to back up Ferrus's attack, though they died trying. The Iron Hands have never forgiven the Salamanders or the Ravenguard for failing to follow his lead. They believe that had they done so, Horus would have fallen, triggering the collapse of the forces of Chaos. The body of Ferrus was never found, however, and many believe he somehow survived. One particular story is that his wrecked body was rescued and restored, and that he took refuge on Mars where he resides still, though this is violently refuted by the Iron Hands themselves.
The Iron Hands despaired as to the fate of Mankind. Their distress and confusion grew when they learned that the God-Emperor had fallen in a titanic battle with the corrupted Horus.
'And to, despair was compounded, for Mankind had lost not only He Who Broke the Darkness, Ferrus Manus, the Shining Light of Medusa, cut down by Foul Corruption and Betrayal: for worse was to come, and there was much anguish and horror, for the Most Holy God-Emperor was, alas, to be lost to the world of Man.'
Having lost all of its veterans in the disastrous assault on Istvaan V, the crippled Legion returned to Medusa full of anger. Their brooding fury was directed at those whose weakness had forced them into a situation where their Primarch was lost and the Crusade abandoned. Their anger grew as time passed, and even extended to a resentment towards those loyal Legions who could not protect the Emperor. They felt sure that had they been closer to Terra, then things would have worked out differently. They cursed the Warmaster Horus, who they believed had known of the Iron Hands' unyielding faith and strength, and whose subtle manipulations had surely arranged for them to be far away from both Terra and Istvaan V at the moment he struck.
Taking refuge in their anger, the Iron Hands have used that emotion to further strengthen themselves against the dangers of frailty. This became their guiding devotion, and they use any means necessary to destroy any form of weakness that they perceive in themselves and others. They do this without reniorse, for they see that they are doing humanity a blessing by removing such a dangerous failing. Only a strong and united humanity will survive, and so until the return of Ferrus when he will lead Man out of Darkness, the Iron Hands strengthen and prepare themselves, seeking to eradicate any weak links that could once more threaten the eventual unification of humanity. There were dark stories told of the Legion replacing its lost warriors with purely mechanical power armoured creations, though these rumours were never substantiated, nor were they widely believed.
The world of Medusa is a harsh realm of perpetual gloom, situated precariously close to the Eye of Terror. The sun almost never breaks through the dark and polluted sky, as it constantly churns over a land of frozen mountain ranges, interspersed with volcanoes and boiling hot geysers. The landscape is under constant flux, the shifting of tectonic plates forming new mountains and seas, and destroying them as quickly as they are created.
The people of Medusa are a hardy race that flourishes despite the hostile environment. They are in a constant battle with the elements and with each other, as each clan vies for hard to come by and jealously defended resources. The unpredictable nature of the landscape of Medusa means that the little that is built will last for very long, except in those few areas of relative calm. As such, the clans build very few permanent structures, but rather carry their possessions and livelihoods along with them as they traverse the landscape. In days gone past the clans hauled great caravans along by hand. The inhabitants of Medusa still follow this tradition, though the means of transport has changed to reflect the changing times. Great caterpillar-like mining haulers crawl across the landscape in grand processions as the clans move. These haulers constantly disgorge their raw exhausts into the atmosphere, adding to the thickening sulphurous clouds that swirl around the planet like a shroud.
Karaashi, the Ice Pinnacle, can still be seen today, though it is said to be half the size it once was. A great gaping hole at its peak that spews ash and steam into the atmosphere is evidence of where the shining light of Ferrus crashed an age previously. Still it rumbles the anger of Medusa - a constant reminder of the need for vigilance. The clans of Medusa prepare for that day when the Ice Pinnacle ceases to rumble Medusa's unease. For that day, it is foretold, will mark the second coming of the great Primarch - with his return, Medusa will be at last content.
The Iron Hands' particular hatred for weakness in any form or nature has a marked effect on their combat doctrine. This hatred is extended to incorporate the physical body, and they see weakness even in their own augmented physiques. These perceived frailties are ruthlessly eradicated through any possible means. This has further developed to a near worship of the mechanical that approaches the zeal and devotion of the Adeptus Mechanicus. A weak body can easily be broken or led into temptations of the flesh, so they believe, and this is what the Iron Hands hate and fear most of all. Consequently, the harder, more mechanical the body, the less room there is for physical failings and frailties.
The Iron-Fathers fuel the hatred and anger of the Iron Hands with rousing speeches and oratories, encouraging its growth and intensity. The Chapter takes this powerful emotion onto the battlefield, where it is focused against the enemy at hand, whoever that may be. The Iron Hands fight with renowned intensity and determination, certain in the knowledge that they act for the good of Mankind by crusading against the weak and corrupted. The cold fury of the Chapter as it goes to battle is fearful to witness, and deadly in its effectiveness. The bitter Space Marines advance machine-like and relentless, throwing themselves violently at the enemy in their focused, severe fervour.
The Iron Hands revere the limited number of Terminator suits and Dreadnoughts that they possess, and treat them with the utmost respect and devotion. Entire squads of Terminators are rare, however, for the inspiration they create amongst the ranks is better served when they act as leaders of individual squads. Sergeants will often wear Terminator armour that is rumoured to be physically bonded to them, and it is not uncommon for battle forces to be led by Dreadnoughts. The inspiration which their presence causes amongst the Iron Hands proves to be of more benefit when acting within these roles.
The organisation of the Iron Hands changed upon its return to Medusa. The Legion was split into three separate and individual Chapters. The newly formed Red Talons and the Brazen Claw left their brethren and founded their own fortress-monasteries, since becoming increasingly reclusive. One Chapter retained the name of the Legion, and based itself on Medusa, the home world of their Primarch. The organisation of the Chapter has moved away from the standard Codex form, becoming more like a reflection of the native clans of Medusa. Contact between the three Chapters deteriorated as they became increasingly insular, while contact with other Space Marine Chapters became virtually non-existent.
There are ten Clan Companies which act in much the same way as the Battle Companies of traditional Codex Chapters, being versatile and capable in any given situation. However, where traditional Codex Chapters have a distinct separation between the various Companies that form it, such as the 10th Company being formed of Scouts, the Iron Hands Chapter is made up solely of its ten Clan Companies. These generally act as completely separate entities in their own right, and it is not unknown for minor skirmishes to break out between Clan Companies. This is encouraged, so as to keep the Space Marines strong and vigilant.
Each Clan Company has its own hierarchy, and is responsible for the recruitment of new Space Marines in order to keep the Clan Company numbers at the required level. These new recruits are taken from the clans of Medusa who embrace their new Clan Company and the Chapter as a whole. The Clan Companies are nomadic, much like the clans they are recruited from. They travel the galaxy, following their continuing crusade against weakness and corruption.
When the Iron Hands return to Medusa they travel the inhospitable Medusa landscape seeking recruits, remaining ever vigilant against weakness in any guise appearing on their home world. The Iron Hands do not maintain a fortress-monastery as such, for the shifting lands would inevitably make any such structure temporary. Rather, each individual Clan Company maintains a mobile version, great land behemoths that constantly traverse the treacherous landscape. These fully automated creations, arcane wonders made by the Adeptus Mechanicus, are serviced by great armies of mechanical servitors, keeping them in perfect order during the Chapter's absence.
As a direct result of their respect for the mechanical body, the Iron Hands differ significantly in some regards from the standard Codex organisation. On induction to the Chapter, new recruits have their left hands removed and replaced with bionics, a ritual symbolising their link with Ferrus and their refusal of the weakness of the flesh. This is the start of a slow process of mechanisation of the body for the recruits, leading towards the stage when the entire organic body can be rejected. The ultimate aim for Iron Hands Marines is to become mind-fused with the body of a hulking Dreadnought - the perfect blend of organic and mechanic.
One particularly revered and respected warrior is chosen to represent each clan within the Chapter. Together, these ten warriors form the Great Council of the Iron Hands. As such, there is no single commander of the Chapter. They see this as a strength and a precaution, so that no individual can lead the Iron Hands astray, as they saw happen to so many of their brother Marines. The Great Clan Council is often formed of ancient Dreadnoughts, warriors who have long given up the frailties of their organic bodies.
Another variation from the standard Codex form is the distinct lack of Chaplains within the Chapter. They are replaced in sorts by the Iron-Fathers, who in effect take the dual role of Techmarine and Chaplain. The reverence the Iron Hands hold for the mechanical is represented by the Iron-Father, who has ties to the Cult Mechanicus as well as acknowledging the supreme divinity of the Emperor.
The anger and hatred that the Iron Hands feel towards weakness grows daily. They are increasingly doubtful of the strength and worth of their brother Chapters, becoming resigned to the fact that they alone can stamp out the deficiencies that they see besetting humanity from all sides. They perceive weakness in everything around them, and prepare for the day when Ferrus will at last return to them; that time when they will stand firm with their Primarch in the final reunification of Mankind.
According to their Scriptures, the moment the Emperor fell, the psychic shockwave was felt with such intensity that it reached Ferrus, even though he had left the realm of Man. An image of Ferrus appeared before his Legion, and his anguish and despair was unimaginable. It is said that this apparition spoke of his fears for Mankind. He spoke of a great calamity, a darkness that would assail humanity at some unforeseen moment in the future, and his promise that he would be there to lead humanity through its trials of darkness. Amongst the Iron Hands it is taught that he ascended to an unearthly paradise realm where he fights eternally, becoming ever stronger. And so it is said that Ferrus Manus left the world of Man, preparing for the time when he is required again, that Time of Darkness when his light is needed most of all.
The actions of their Primarch, so the Iron Hands believe, implicitly warned against the weakness of the flesh. His clearly superior metallic hands have long been interpreted as a direct message of this to his Legion. The Iron Hands therefore follow their Primarch's example by gradually eliminating the inherent weakness within their bodies, making them increasingly mechanised. This was further developed to form the most important principle of the Iron Hands: the unyielding mind and the unyielding body. Under this maxim, the strongest, most incorruptible warrior is formed, so they believe. This has proved to be extremely effective, for in all their long and glorious history, there has never been any record of an Iron Hands Space Marine failing in his duty as a result of any physical frailty.
The Iron Hands have a close link with the Adeptus Mechanicus, and embrace many of the beliefs of the Machine Cult. The reverence they hold for the mechanical, the physical embodiment of knowledge, is frowned upon by the majority of more Codex Space Marine Chapters. The most talented of the Chapters Iron-Fathers are sent to Mars, the ancient and mysterious home world of the Adeptus Mechanicus, where they study under the Tech-Priest Engineers. The Iron Hands often make use of weaponry and armoury that is generally unseen outside the Mars-based Cult. What the mysterious and typically insular Cult Mechanicus gains from this strange relationship is unclear.
The fanatically intense hatred of weakness displayed by the Iron Hands would appear to gloss over a hidden and deeply rooted fear of the physical form that is evident throughout the Chapter. This fear seems to increase as the Space Marine matures in age, resulting in more and more extreme mechanisation of the body. Where this fear truly originates is unclear, although it is widely believed that some genetic flaw is at work. This defect seems to be somehow kept under control, or at least concealed, by the mechanical augmentations the Space Marines routinely endure.
Notably reclusive, the Iron Hands are particularly hostile to outside interference, and they tolerate the continued investigations by the Inquisition with barley concealed disdain. Uncharacteristically, the Inquisition appears relatively unconcerned with the Chapter as a whole. They seem to have identified some aberration within the Chapter, but refrain from acting on it, for they do not see the flaw as inherently dangerous to the Imperium. Rather, the Iron Hands Chapter, with its particular devotion to the eradication of the weakness they perceive all around them, are (for now) seen as a useful form of enforcement within the Imperium, and their effectiveness is beyond question.
Paullian Blantar was an inspiration to his Chapter who served the Kaargul Clan Company for many centuries. His technical abilities became apparent soon after his induction into the Iron Hands, and within decades he had become the pre-eminent Iron-Father of his Clan Company. The other Clans sent their young aspirants to study under this great master, and the entire Chapter benefited from his expertise. In the realm of bionic enhancement he was unparalleled, and his refinements of the augmentation process distinctly affected the direction of the Chapter.
It was Paullian who led the dramatic counter attack against the insidious Dark Eldar on the industrial world Kaladrone, rescuing the badly wounded warleader Bannus and carrying him to safety. Bannus had been terribly mutilated by the twisted aliens, and it was Paullian himself who performed the tech-surgery that enabled Bannus to continue to lead his Clan for centuries to come. Indeed, Bannus still leads his Clan Company as an ancient and powerful Dreadnought. Being an integral member of the Great Clan Council, his wisdom and experience continue to benefit the Chapter as a whole.
The disdain that Paullian felt for his organic body was legendary. The augmentation of his body was a constant process, and he ceaselessly sought new ways of strengthening himself. Indeed, towards the end of his long and successful life span, there was little organic left of him other than his brilliant, mechanically-oriented mind. The ritual scarring and punishment that he inflicted on the few exposed areas of his skin became synonymous with his skill as a tech. The Iron-Fathers of the Chapter as a whole routinely scar their bodies in reverence to him, and they uniformly aspire to his technical brilliance and insight.