An Imperial Knight is a small combat walker that is one-man version of a Titan and is smaller than even the smallest class of true Titan, the Warhound-class Scout Titan utilised by the Titan Legions. Knights normally deploy in squadrons comprised of several of these war machines. These ancient battlesuits stand thirty to forty feet tall, are protected by nearly impenetrable ion shields and armed with a devastating array of heavy weapons. The presence of just one of these towering engines of destruction is enough to change the course of a battle, and only the Titans of the Adeptus Mechanicus are more feared by the enemies of Mankind.
Thousands of standard years before the rise of the Imperium, Mankind reached out to the stars and settled many far away worlds. Among the apparatus of colonisation were formidable war machines known as Imperial Knights, which existed to protect the settlers from any threat. The ancient strongholds constructed from the remains of ancient Terran colony ships are ruled by the descendants of the first human settlers of those far-flung worlds, mighty fighters who go to war in their towering armoured battlesuits and who are sworn to protect and guard the Imperial citizens who inhabit their worlds. These proud and haughty warriors can trace their bloodlines back to Terra itself and are known as Nobles. Over the millennia, the pilots of these massive war suits have established a rich culture, noble houses each sworn to the defence of their homeworld, bound by oaths of fealty to the Golden Throne of Terra and the Adeptus Mechanicus of Mars. Imperial Knights are colossal war machines that tower over the battlefield. They are propelled into battle by powerful servos and have the power to kick over tanks and crush soldiers into mulch. Vulnerable limbs and joints are protected by sweeping armour plates of adamantium and supported by an incorporated Ion Shield which responds to the thought-commands of its noble pilot.
Long before the rise of the Emperor and the birth of the Imperium, during the Age of Technology humanity reached out to the stars, eager to occupy new worlds and expand its burgeoning empire. Vast colonisation ships carried eager human settlers, along with all the resources they might require, and landed on far-flung, often isolated worlds.
The first Knight Worlds were founded at the very start of the Age of Technology, when scouts from Terra travelled far through the galaxy seeking planets to use as agricultural worlds to provide food for Mankind's burgeoning population, or as mining colonies to provide the materials needed to fuel their expansion across the stars. Indeed, the Knight worlds had already been established for thousands of years when the Imperium was first founded. When those first human scout ships discovered a suitable planet for colonisation, gigantic spacecraft were dispatched to settle them. These ships were part of Terra's Long March fleets, named after the duration of their voyage and their destination among the stars. The name was apt; each of the Long March colony ships carried thousands of settlers on a decade-long journey to a far distant planet. Upon arrival, the colony ship would land and be immediately cannibalised by the colonists to provide the raw materials needed for their first settlements; there was no hope of return.
The struggle for survival on many of these worlds was grim. On some, the settlers found themselves the prey of vicious predators or were attacked by native alien races, which saw the human settlers as invaders. On other worlds, extreme weather conditions or an unbreathable atmosphere made travel outside of domed habitat-zones next to impossible. However, problems like these had been anticipated, and in order to deal with them, the settlers were supplied with Standard Template Construct (STC) that allowed them to build powered suits of exoarmour. The pilots of these bipedal walking machines were protected by a hard shell of plasteel and armed with an array of military-grade heavy weapons. The suits proved invaluable: few, if any, natural predators or hostile alien warriors could stand against them, and they could travel through even the most dangerous environment with ease. The towering armoured figures soon became a common sight on the colonies, where they were known as Knights by the settlers, after the legendary armoured warriors and protectors of ancient Terran history.
Compelled by the mind-altering effects instilled by the Thrones Mechanicum (a control platform that allows a pilot to interface with their Knight battlesuit), over the course of a few generations, these elite warriors gradually developed a society that evolved into the knightly houses. The plasteel plates of the original exo-skeleton suits were slowly replaced with more ornate armour made from adamantium, providing better protection as well as a panoply befitting the wearer’s prestige and rank. The more mundane duties that the Knights had once taken part in on the colony worlds -– logging with their mighty reaper chainswords, for example, or blasting apart rock ore with their rapid-fire battle cannons -– were delegated to those of lesser ranks, allowing the Knights to focus on the arts of war and governorship. Dwelling in tall strongholds, the Nobles strove to protect the lives of their subjects (as they now saw the settlers they protected) and to bring order to the primeval maelstrom on the planets that were their homes. The knightly houses proved to be highly successful at both of these things, and soon became a vital part of human society during the Age of Technology.
The Age of Strife
Tragically, the Age of Technology was doomed to fall and devolve into a shadow of its former glory. Around M22, Mankind's vast galactic empire began to suffer a pandemic of terrible wars and massive invasions, caused, at least in part, by the emergence of the first human Psykers and the widespread use of quasi-sentient machines. By M25, ferocious Warp Storms had largely isolated the widespread human colonies, and the era that came to be known as the Age of Strife had well and truly begun. This lamentable era became known as the Age of Strife, also sometimes referred to as Old Night, interstellar travel to many of these human-settled worlds was made impossible due to the massive Warp Storms caused by the birth of the foul Chaos God Slaanesh during the Fall of the Eldar.
Although swathes of Knight worlds fell to this storm of death and destruction, some survived, aided considerably by the innate conservatism and resistance to change of the knightly houses. Where other planets welcomed psykers into their midst, and revelled in the luxurious lifestyle that advanced thinking machines could provide, the knightly houses had largely shunned both, preferring to stick with the traditions and technology of the past. Thus, when the violence that presaged the Age of Strife struck, hundreds of Knight worlds were sidelined or ignored, and took little direct part in the terrible conflicts that tore the rest of humanity apart. Cut off and alone, the knightly houses were quickly forgotten by the other colonies. Left to their own devices, the warrior aristocracy cemented their control and –- encouraged by the psychological manipulations caused by the process of imprinting their suits of Knight armour -– almost all of them enforced neo-feudal systems on their home worlds.
During the latter years of this tumultuous age, the Mechanicum of Mars began sending out many starships that made use of sublight drives to explore the galaxy in search of Standard Template Construct (STC) technologies on lost human colony worlds. In the course of their travels, these slow-moving exploratory expeditions discovered large clusters of human-settled star systems that had once belonged to the ancient interstellar human confederacy that had existed during the Dark Age of Technology. But these worlds had regressed during the Age of Strife to become Feudal Worlds possessed of a pre-industrial, feudal culture dominated by castes of warrior aristocrats. The societies that evolved were built upon concepts of fealty, honour and duty; three things that all Knights hold in the greatest regard. All of the Nobles on a Knight world owed their allegiance to a knightly house, whose ruler could call upon them at any time to carry out his commands. Each house could also field large numbers of men-at-arms, either mounted or on foot. The houses also had groups of artificers and technicians who maintained the suits of Knight armour as best they could, and over time, became an integral part of society on all of the Knight Worlds.
Sometimes the ruler of a knightly house would come from the same family for generation after generation, but more often than not, the death of an incumbent ruler would lead to a period of political manoeuvring or even outright warfare until a new ruler was selected. Competition between different knightly houses on a planet was just as intense, and although full-scale battles were rare, all strived to outdo their rivals in any way they could, be it in the field of politics, ancient traditions, or contests of their skill at arms. On the Knight world of Higroxias, for example, once every ten years, the three major houses compete against each other in a series of trials known as the Honour Games, the winner of which rules the governing council for the next decade. As the Age of Strife stretched from centuries into millennia, the Knight worlds became increasingly insular and inward looking. Each developed its own titles and terms, so that on one Knight world the ruler of a knightly house would be known as a Lord, while on another they might be called a Ritter or Patriarch, and a Noble's stronghold could be known as their castle, fastness or mansion. Without any outside contact, ritual and etiquette started to dominate daily life within the knightly houses, and the only escape from stultifying tradition lay in donning a suit of Knight armour and taking to the field of battle.
The Coming of the Imperium
After five thousand years, the Imperium arose from the ruins of the Age of Strife. Under the guidance of the Emperor, Humanity returned to the stars and began the Great Crusade in 798.M30, to reunite Mankind. Nothing was able to stand in the way of the resurgent Imperial armies, and soon, human colonies on planets all across the galaxy were brought within the fold of the newly formed Imperium. When Rogue Trader Militant Jeffers rediscovered a Knight world, Chrysis, for the first time, he quickly realized the knightly houses could be valuable allies for the Emperor's armies. In his reports, he pointed out the Knights' many virtues, and emphasised the world's value to the Imperium as a source of born and bred warriors. The Administratum agreed with Jeffers' findings and set about finding the rest of the long-lost Knight worlds. Although there were thousands of Knight worlds at their height during the Dark Age of Technology, the vast majority had been destroyed or died out during the Age of Strife. Now, only several hundred survive, scattered all across the galaxy. Most of the Knight worlds share certain features, hallmarks of the instructions followed by the original settlers. The Nobles themselves occupy sprawling walled strongholds, each a gothic, ancient structure of dusty, lifeless halls and corridors. Many are built on the same location as the first human settlements on the planet and include at their core parts of the giant colony ships used to transport the first settlers to their new worlds. They can vary in size from small keeps to entire cities bordered by vast outer walls.
Huge farms or strip-mines surround the strongholds, providing foodstuffs and raw materials for local use and export across the galaxy; the colony ships' purpose was always to generate resources for Mankind. It is in these settlements that the vast majority of citizens on Knight worlds live, with few venturing more than a dozen miles from their place of birth. In addition to these settlements, vast grazing herds of beasts wander through the wildernesses between the strongholds – more often than not, these are huge reptilian creatures that were introduced to the planet as livestock in the Age of Technology. Packs of local predators will often pursue the grazing herds or attack the farms surrounding a stronghold, and it is the duty of the Knights to fight to keep them at bay. Even on planets with less ferocious flora and fauna, the Knights must be constantly vigilant in order to keep the herds and farms safe from alien raiders and rapacious pirates.
The Forge Worlds
Most knightly houses, though by no means all, are are associated with a Forge World, and in return for fighting alongside that forge world's Titan Legions, they gain access to advanced technology and knowledge that only the Adeptus Mechanicus possess. The association between the knightly houses and the Adeptus Mechanicus dates back to the time of the Great Crusade. When the Knight worlds were first discovered, the different organisations that made up the Great Crusade competed ferociously with each other to gain control of the valuable resource the Knights represented. This Machiavellian political contest went on for decades, until the Mechanicum of Mars was finally able to establish their dominance in the right to exploit the Knight worlds. The Mechanicum were driven in this by a desire to gain control of the archeotech that could be found in abundance on the ancient Knight worlds, but were also aware that the vast natural resources and military might of the knightly houses could make them a valuable asset. To this end, once they had established their right to exploit the Knight worlds, they set about making them dependent upon the Mechanicum for their continued survival.
At the time of the Great Crusade, the Tech-Priests' space fleets found an anarchic galaxy where the ancient confederacy of interdependent human planets no longer existed. The surviving Knight worlds that were discovered had not retained all of their old technology and had devolved into feudal states ruled by aristocrats. The Tech-Priests settled amongst these feudal empires, founding many forge worlds, and established contacts with the knightly houses, trading with their worlds and investigating the ancient ruins where surviving technology could still sometimes be found. The ferocious warrior Knights proved invaluable in combating enemies such as marauding Orks and land-hungry Eldar Exodites. In return, the Tech-Priests promised technical expertise and helped the Nobles to rebuild their planets. The most important thing that the Tech-Priests brought to the Knight worlds was the knowledge and technology needed to maintain the Nobles' suits of armour. Over the course of the Age of Strife, much of the expertise needed to keep the complex Knight armour working had been lost. Local technicians and artificers did their best to maintain the suits, but in many cases, they simply did not have the necessary ability. When the Knight worlds were rediscovered, most had only a handful of operational suits remaining, and even these were in a poor state of repair. The Mechanicum promised to remedy this situation by inducting the local technicians that had been caring for the armour into the Cult Mechanicus, and teaching them the skills they needed to keep the Knight armour in good repair. Because of this, nearly all suits of Knight armour now bear the mark of the Cult Mechanicus as a reminder of the debt of gratitude they owe to Mars.
Over the millennia, the forge worlds have grown powerful with the Knight worlds flourishing alongside them. Year-long, the Knights battle and patrol until the great cargo ships arrive from a forge world, bringing new Knight suits, weapons, tools and mining machinery. They leave with their holds packed with ores and food. The Tech-Priests and the Knights are now mutually dependent, and many forge worlds form the hub of a tiny empire consisting of a forge world and its surrounding Knight worlds. In return, the Knights have gained much from the Tech-Priests, their worlds gradually returning to being technically sophisticated cultures. However, the relationship between forge world and Knight world is not always an easy one, and nowhere is this more true than in the fraught relationship between the Knights and the Sacristans trained by the Adeptus Mechanicus to maintain their armour.
The Horus Heresy
The golden age of the Great Crusade was to be cut short by the supreme act of betrayal known as the Horus Heresy, during which the galaxy was gripped by the most bitter civil war humanity had ever seen. Across the nascent Imperium, rebels clashed with loyalists for the fate of Mankind. Space Marines fought Space Marines, Titans fought Titans and, alongside them, Imperial Knights fought Imperial Knights. In those dark days, nobody was to be trusted and treachery was as much a part of warfare as bolter shells, volcano cannons and Drop Pods. One of the most horrific betrayals of the war occurred on the planet of Molech. As the Warmaster Horus led his armies to Terra, he left a trail of destruction in his wake hundreds of light years wide. His forces seemed unstoppable as garrison after garrison fell before his might, or changed allegiance and sided with the traitorous commander. It was on the planet of Molech that one of the most determined stands was to be made. Loyalist Titan Legions and over a hundred Imperial Army regiments and knightly houses stood ready to bear the brunt of the Warmaster's attack in an attempt to halt his inexorable advance. When it came, it was like a hurricane unleashed upon the verdant world.
Horus' initial assault devastated many cities and strongholds, and amongst the victims were Molech's rulers –- House Devine. Dispossessed and unable to fight back, the knightly house slowly succumbed to the temptations of Chaos. Over the following months, the insidious whisper of Slaanesh -– Dark Prince of Chaos and god of indulgence and excess –- spread through their depleted ranks. Their officers became lethargic, interested only in their sports, using their mighty Knight suits to hunt the towering reptilian beasts that stalked Molech's lush jungles. The seductive grip of Slaanesh grew stronger, as the Prince of Pleasure bent the force of his will to corrupting the noble Devines. Soon, they met in secret cabals, performing depraved rites and ceremonies within the heart of the loyalist camp. No act was too shameful or disgusting; the sensations of the moment became their only desire. When Horus launched a massive offensive, the Knights of House Devine committed an act of brazen treachery and turned on the troops who remained loyal to the Emperor. The Imperial forces found themselves caught in a trap, with advancing enemy Titans to the front and renegade Knights attacking their ranks from behind. This treachery allowed the Chaos host to punch through the Imperial defences, leaving them with no line of retreat. They were totally defeated, so brutally that only one in a hundred of the Imperial Army surviving the campaign. Since that first betrayal, only a handful of knightly houses have been corrupted by Chaos, even when the forge worlds to which they owed fealty became part of the Dark Mechanicum. Presumably when the Warmaster was defeated, this Chaos-corrupted Knight Houses fled alongside the Traitor Legions into the Eye of Terror, where they remain to this day.
There are many hundreds of Knight worlds scattered throughout the vast empire of Mankind. The bold explorers of Humanity's first expansion travelled far and wide into the galactic wilderness seeking habitable worlds or planets that could otherwise be terraformed to sustain human life. Many of these exploratory fleets were equipped with Knight STC technology, enabling them to protect the colonies they established. More than fifteen millennia after their ancient ancestors set out into the stars, the distant descendants of these colonists dwell still on Knight worlds across the Imperium. Though many knightly houses have risen and fallen over the ages, those that remain can trace their heritage back to a time before the birth of the Imperium, and are justifiably proud of their ancestry. Thus is every Knight world heavy with the weight of the past, regardless of its galactic location or level of technological advancement.
The knightly houses found on each of the Knight worlds are affiliated with either the Imperium or the Adeptus Mechanicus. The Knight worlds aligned with the Imperium are expected to adhere to the Imperial tithe as does any other planet, but still trade with the Adeptus Mechanicus to keep their Knight suits operational. The Knight worlds with direct ties to the Adeptus Mechanicus are often found near to the parent Forge World with which they are associated. This is no mere coincidence, for many of these forge worlds were specifically founded near to Knight worlds in order to harvest their natural resources. The Titan Legions that set forth from these forge worlds to battle the enemies of Mankind often do so in the company of their allies from the Knight worlds. A partnership between both forge and Knight world is mutually advantageous to both factions, their military strength great enough to shatter cities and conquer worlds.
The descendants of the early pioneers who settled their respective worlds were found in the knightly houses of the Imperial Knights. These dynasties of nobility evolved from the need to protect the early human settlers of the Knight Worlds from indigenous species discovered on their alien planets. When the original settlers arrived on distant worlds they cannibalised their spacecraft, using the parts for the raw materials of survival. The Imperial Knights now dwell in massive strongholds, forboding martial structures, the heart of which contains technologies taken from these ancient colonisation vessels. The formal role of protector and castellan developed over time into the structure of noble houses that was old when the Imperium was in its infancy. The curious fact that the knightly houses are often uncannily alike despite their far-flung nature is explained, at least in part, by the union of noble pilot and his suit of knight armour, known as the Ritual of Becoming. Connecting at a neural level with the War Spirit of a suit of Knight armour has a profound effect on the consciousness of the pilot. The joining of mind and War Spirit has helped to create cultures which appear uncannily similar across the galaxy, despite evolving on worlds that are far apart, and have never shared formal communication.
The Imperial Knights are characterised by their independence. They are bound to the Imperium, and to the Adeptus Mechanicus by oaths of fealty, but they are not subjects in any true sense of the word. Their culture and society predates the Imperium by thousands of Terran years, way back before the Dark Age of Technology, and it is informed far more by the bonds between a noble pilot and his Knight suit than any outside influence. Theirs is a culture of relentless, formalised ritual. It is a society that exists around a stultifying observance to apparently pointless ceremony and endless courtly mundanity. Against this tableau of formalised ritual are the Knight pilots. They are a breed of warriors who find their only joy in battle, and they yearn constantly to escape the oppressive dullness of courtly life and ride their Knight suits to war. The thrill of battle and the risk of death is an infinitely preferable experience for them to the monotony of life within their fortresses. These are warriors born to their calling and raised for nothing other than war. They spend every moment they can preparing, training and planning for battle –- the alternative is simply too dull for them to even contemplate.
Great Knight Houses
There are many hundreds of knightly houses in the Imperium, each with its own unique heritage. Of all the knightly houses, there are some that stand as giants amongst their peers. Having attained their esteemed position by performing legendary deeds, or perhaps earning the favour of one of the Imperium's great institutions, the Great Houses, as they are known, are the mightiest of all knightly houses. Listed below are some famous examples:
Adeptus Mechanicus Aligned Houses
- House Taranis - The first of the knightly houses to be established was that of House Taranis. This truly ancient house predates any other by many hundreds of years, for it was first founded on Mars during the Age of Terra. As the industries of the red planet developed into a vast metropolis of technological mastery, so too did it evolve to become the first and foremost of the forge worlds, and the Knights of House Taranis were its guardians. The STC technology supplied to many of the expeditionary fleets during Mankind’s expansion across the stars included designs for armoured suits of exo-armour based on those first developed to be used by the Knights of Taranis. When the Knight worlds were first rediscovered during the Imperium's Great Crusade many thousands of years later, it is likely that the Mechanicum used their intimate knowledge of the Knight suits worn by House Taranis to help win the loyalty of those worlds.
- House Krast - The Knight world of Chrysis was the first to be rediscovered at the outset of the Great Crusade by Rogue Trader Militant Jeffers. Its proximity to Mars meant that the knightly houses of Chrysis were able to swiftly resupply their Knights with new weapons and equipment. Foremost amongst these knightly houses was Krast, and their strength at arms was bolstered further still by their new alliance with the Mechanicum. Gladly did the full might of House Krast set forth at the bidding of Mars to fight in the Emperor's wars, leaving the lesser houses to consolidate the alliance with the Mechanicum on Chrysis. However, the Knight world's proximity to Mars was to ultimately prove its undoing when the full might of Horus' traitor forces descended upon Chrysis as he carved a bloody path across the galaxy towards Terra. The Knights of House Krast returned to their planet only to find it devastated and the lesser houses all but erased from existence. Ever since the Horus Heresy, the Knights of House Krast have vowed that whenever the threat of Chaos rears its malformed head, they will be there to sever it at the neck.
- House Raven - Of all the knightly houses in the Imperium, House Raven is the largest by far. Indeed, Raven’s Knights number in the hundreds, with dozens of households ready to answer the summons of the Adeptus Mechanicus should they be called to war. Quite why there are so many Knight suits available to House Raven is something of a mystery. However, ancient records dating back to when their world, Kolossi, was first settled refer to a piece of STC archeotech that long ago fell into disrepair and was lost. Whether this STC system and Kolossi's natural resources served as the perfect combination for producing Knight suits, or if the first human settlers merely prioritised the creation of Knight suits above all else, remains an enigma. House Raven first allied itself with the nearby forge world of Metalica during the Great Crusade. Lord Gregor, Raven's ruler, struck a deal with the Tech Adepts of Metalica to ensure that his house would have sufficient Sacristans to service his full host of Knights. In return, Gregor swore eternal fealty to Metalica –- a pact that remains to this day.
Imperial Aligned Houses
- House Cadmus - For thousands of years, the Knights of House Cadmus have gathered every midsummer's eve to prepare for an annual hunt to keep the mutant numbers of their forested world of Raisa in check. This much-celebrated event is known as the Cull. Bio-reading cogitators are attached to their Knight suits before every Cull, enabling each Knight to track the number of savages he has slain during the course of the day-long hunt. The Knight who claims the greatest number of kills is the winner of this macabre tourney, and will rule the affairs of the house for the next year. So has the leadership of House Cadmus changed hands with far greater frequency than any other knightly house over the centuries. However, the current ruler, Baron Roland of Swinford Hall, has retained command for the last thirty-two years, such is his incredible run of victories in the Cull. It is well that a leader of such experience still rules, for the fighting strength of House Cadmus has suffered greatly in defence of the nearby forge world of Gryphonne IV after it was overwhelmed by Hive Fleet Leviathan. A grim future yet awaits House Cadmus if the Tyranid menace cannot be defeated.
- House Griffith - The Knights of House Griffith are a fierce and proud warrior caste who value courage and skill at arms above all else. Duels of honour are commonplace amongst Griffith's hot-headed Knights. A regular jousting tourney, the Field of Adamantium, dictates the standings of each family in society; a Knight can be preeminent one day, but overshadowed the next, should one of his rivals emerge triumphant. The Knights of House Griffith use Errant armour almost exclusively, the exo-suit's powerful thermal cannon befitting these close range specialists. Such is their aggressive nature, however, that many of Griffith's Knights eschew the use of ranged weaponry in battle unless absolutely necessary, preferring instead to charge forwards and strike down their foes with reaper chainswords in glorious combat.
- House Hawkshroud - To the noble Knights of Hawkshroud, honour is the single most important virtue of all. So essential to their way of life is the esteem and reputation of their house that Hawkshroud's Knights will honour any call to arms from those that have earned their loyalty or respect. It is for this reason that, at any given time, almost all of House Hawkshroud's Knights are away on campaigns to uphold past alliances. Though he would never admit it, the ruler of House Hawkshroud, Viscount Tudon, fears the day that his home world of Krastellan comes under attack. With so many Knights scattered across the galaxy, his skeleton force would need significant support to defend Krastellan against a determined enemy. But would Hawkshroud's allies come to their aid as readily to honour past bonds of friendship?
- House Terryn - Hailing from the tranquil world of Voltoris, the Knights of House Terryn have earned countless battle honours over the ages. Their house's storied history is replete with tales of valour, strength and glory in battles fought from one side of the galaxy to the other. But it is said that the tedium of their daily life at Furion Peak only encourages them to campaign so far away from their peaceful home planet. Some may jest at such a notion, yet there is undoubtedly a kernel of truth behind this – after all, House Terryn is famed almost as much for the laborious ceremonies they stringently adhere to as they are for the magnificent skills their Knights display in battle. The daily intonation known as the Thousand Canticles of War Long Awaited is one such ritual, and lasts nearly three hours.
There are hundreds of lesser knightly houses scattered across the Imperium whose deeds, no less impressive than those of the major houses, are not as well known beyond the boundaries of their own planetary systems. There are the houses of Mortan, Althalos and Thalmus, who saved more than 100 billion lives by defending the Hive World of Hexis Alpha when a Warp rift spawned a tide of Daemons across the planet. House Dorath's valiant Knights have ever dominated the ranks of the mighty Order of Iron -– the elite guardians of the forge world, Stryken Primus. The ebon Knights of House Winterveil have thwarted dozens of Dark Eldar raids in the systems surrounding their home world, earning bitter enmity from the scions of Commorragh.
Tech-Priests refer to the Knight world artificers that are inducted into the Cult Mechanicus as Sacristans, and this quickly became what they were known as in the knightly houses too. Whenever a cargo ship arrives from a forge world to collect food and resources, it will also take a small party of apprentices from the Knight world. These apprentices are drawn from all levels of society and could be the third son of a Noble, or the offspring of a lowly farmer. Over the course of their decade-long apprenticeship on the forge world, they are trained in the skills needed to maintain suits of Knight armour and then returned to their planet of origin as a fully trained Sacristan. Unbeknownst to the Imperial Knights, however, the trainees are also indoctrinated into the Cult Mechanicus, providing a network of agents who can further the interests of the Tech-Priests.
The local artificers that maintained the Knight armour during the Age of Strife had already established themselves as a vitally important part of each knightly house, and the training they have received from the Adeptus Mechanicus has only served to increase their status. From their first foundation, the Sacristans quickly styled themselves as a priesthood for the half-forgotten mysteries of the technology that they knew, and as their power grew, the relationship between them and the knightly houses shifted and changed. Where in the past, the technicians were seen as mere subjects or vassals, the Sacristans soon began to speak with one voice, and by threatening to remove their services from any house that would not heed their advice, they soon became almost as influential in knightly society as the Nobles themselves. In general, this has benefited the knightly houses, for the Sacristans act as something of a counterpoint to the natural arrogance and warlike tendencies of the Knights, and have often been able to arbitrate between different houses to ensure they do not wipe one another out in bitter feuds. However, this political might is also an important tool for the Adeptus Mechanicus, which the Tech-Priests use to try and bend the Knight worlds to their will. More often than not, however, the Knights’ ingrained sense of honour and duty often drives them to follow a course of action that the Adeptus Mechanicus would far rather they ignore.
It is mercifully rare for relations between knightly houses to deteriorate to the point of war, though it is far from unheard of. Houses Navaros and Borgius are fierce rivals that have been embroiled in a bitter feud dating back several millennia. The troubles on Dutonis started when the matriarch of House Borgius was accused of seducing the Count of Navaros' firstborn son, then poisoning him after he spurned her advances. Relations have regularly soured between the houses to the point of open war. The Sacristans have, on occasion, even had to request forces from the nearby forge world of Lucius to intervene in order to prevent the fighting from halting production at the planet's adamantium mining facilities. So fierce was the civil war in 156.M41 that the Tech Adepts of Lucius authorised the deployment of a demi-legion of Titans from the Legio Astorum to quell the infighting.
Tradition & Ritual
Since the dark days of the Horus Heresy, the Knight worlds have continued to establish themselves as an important and loyal part of the Imperium. Feared in battle, and almost unswayable once they have given their word, they are welcomed as powerful allies by Imperial commanders whenever their services are available. It is only the relative scarcity of the surviving Knight worlds, and the rigid, hidebound society they have developed, that limits the impact the Imperial Knights have on the galaxy. Daily life within the strongholds is bound by ancient traditions and rituals that can date back, unchanged, more than ten thousand years, and which the Imperial Knights feel themselves honour-bound to adhere to. This immense awareness of tradition manifests itself in rituals that can dominate and suffocate all other aspects of life within the stronghold. Days are almost wholly consumed tending to the obscure and esoteric tenets of tradition and with honouring household traditions or important ancestors from thousands of years ago. For example, in House Hasburg, at the dawn of every day the entire court must gather to hear the reading of the names and deeds of every ruler of the house, dating back to its foundation millennia before; there are hundreds of names, and the process takes up most of the day.
The only escape from the smothering ennui of courtly life lies in conflict; both the heroic challenge of the field of battle as an Imperial Knight, and the more ignoble but no less enthralling political contests that take place between the knightly houses. The first of these is solely the preserve of the first or second sons of the aristocracy, for only they are allowed to pilot suits of Knight armour. It is difficult to imagine the sheer freedom and sense of power that donning a suit of Knight armour brings to its wearer. At court, the Noble’s every move and action is dictated by ancient traditions and rigid social rules; once the armour is donned, all that is forgotten; he is free to act as he sees fit, unconstrained by anything but his own moral compass. This being the case, it comes as no surprise that Imperial Knights fight with such ruthless and joyful ferocity, or that they are willing to endlessly practice the techniques of battle such that their prowess is only matched by the Adeptus Astartes. When unable to justify wearing their armour for training or battle, Nobles organise contests between themselves to prove who is the bravest and most skilled, and in truth they are only truly content when arrayed for battle in their armour.
However, there is also a darker side to the character of the Imperial Knights, one which drives another form of behaviour that allows for an escape from the traditions and rituals of courtly life. The same mental conditioning that imposes a strong respect for hierarchy and fealty upon the Nobles has the side-effect of making them endlessly ambitious. In short, they are all compelled to outdo their peers and be acknowledged as the mightiest of all. In part, this drives the Nobles’ obsession with contests of skill, but it also reveals itself in an equally intense obsession with political intrigue. The courts of the knightly houses are riven with political factions, each trying to outdo the others in any way possible. These political intrigues are not the sole purview of the Nobles themselves. All Nobles have a high-born consort, it being considered vital that the Noble has sons to inherit their name and titles, and daughters to marry as consorts to other knightly families in order to cement alliances. A Noble's consort can have considerable influence, and political intrigue offers them just about their only escape from the drudgery of courtly life. Many a Noble has risen to high power thanks to the intelligence, cunning and ruthless ambition of his consort, while the Noble himself has found his pleasures on the field of battle.
The result is that plots and schemes abound; often these will be inconsequential and only result in one faction or another gaining prestige over their rivals, but at times, such as when the ruler of a knightly house dies, they can become deadly serious. It is not unknown for factions to come to blows, or even to arrange the assassination of a particularly hated opponent. Most infamously, on the planet Patronis, a dispute about which rituals should be carried out when members of the different houses visited each other escalated into a centuries-long conflict that devastated the planet and eventually led to the demise of both houses.
- Knight Apparent - After undergoing the Ritual of Becoming, a Knight begins his career as a Knight Apparent. He retains this title until he has been blooded in his first full-scale battle, after which the supplemental title is dropped and he is accepted by his peers as a full-fledged Imperial Knight. These warriors form the bulk of each knightly house's household detachments, and proudly represent them at war.
- Seneschal - Some veteran Knights who prove themselves worthy in the fires of battle, either through countless martial triumphs or by one truly heroic act, are awarded the rank of Seneschal, and are paragons of their house.
- Knight Warlord - When fielding an army where the primary detachment is made up of Imperial Knights, one Knight is nominated as the Knight Warlord. A Knight Warlord always has the same rank of Seneschal.
Honorifics and Titles
Although all Knight worlds have similar feudal societies, local factors and other external influences meant that the exact nature of these emergent cultures varied somewhat between worlds. Nowhere is this more evident than in the names utilised by the knightly houses for their ranks, battle formations and even their strongholds. The ruler of House Griffith, for example, bears the rather pretentious honorific of Grand Master of the Lance. None, however, would dare claim that Griffith's current ruler, Bryce, does not merit such a grandiose title, for his skill in battle is legend across the galaxy. Similarly, by long tradition the Nobles of House Skandos are known as Jarls, and their household detachments as Jarlhosts, while the largest stronghold of all the Knight worlds is that of House Raven, which is known as the Keep Inviolate. This titanic edifice is large enough to accommodate each and every one of the many hundreds of Knight suits belonging to the Nobles of House Raven and is one of the mightiest fortifications in the Imperium.
Oaths of Allegiance
When Mankind rediscovered the feudal domains of the Knight Houses, they quickly found common cause, exchanging oaths of loyalty. The knightly houses found on each of the Knight worlds are affiliated with either the Imperium or the Adeptus Mechanicus. The Knight Worlds aligned with the Imperium are expected to adhere to the Imperial tithe as does any other planet, but still trade with the Adeptus Mechanicus to keep their Knight suits operational. Many Knight Houses see the Imperium as their equal partner, and support it militarily out of mutual advantage. Although these houses trade openly with the Imperium, and march to war alongside their armies, they retain a fierce independence. Other houses found common cause specifically with the Mechanicum, who in turn courted the Knight House with unseemly eagerness. These Adeptus Mechanicus-aligned houses, as they are now known, have forged alliances of reciprocal protection and betterment.
The Knight Worlds with direct ties to the Adeptus Mechanicus are often found near to the parent Forge World with which they are associated. This is no mere coincidence, for many of these Forge Worlds were specifically founded near to Knight Worlds in order to harvest their natural resources. The Titan Legions that set forth from these Forge Worlds to battle the enemies of Mankind often do so in the company of their allies from the Knight Worlds. A partnership between both Forge and Knight World is mutually advantageous to both factions, as their combined military strength is great enough to shatter cities and conquer worlds. Those who look at the fealty of the knightly houses towards the Adeptus Mechanicus often wonder at whether the relationship is not in fact based on jealousy, for the Tech-priests of Mars covet the pre-Imperial technology that lies within the mighty citadels of each Knight House. For their part, the Mechanicus-aligned houses seem not to care, since they receive the full resources of the affiliated Forge Worlds from their allies. While the overwhelming majority of Imperial Knights belong to houses (such as Houses Terryn, Hawkshroud and Cadmus) who are aligned to the Imperium, some houses (such as Taranis and Raven) are sworn to the service of the Adeptus Mechanicus. Each house has its own proud traditions that span thousands of standard years, and will have fought in countless battles on behalf of humanity.
Some Knights, for one reason or another, forsake the succour of a noble house. These Knights owe no allegiance to any house, and forge their own destiny as as Freeblade Knights or Freeblades. Ancient tradition ensures that every noble pilot has the right to leave his knightly house and strike out on his own. These Freeblade Knights are tragic heroes, driven to leave their houses to pursue a cause of their own, continuing to fight for Mankind, but call no man master. The reasons that a Knight becomes a Freeblade are many and varied. In some cases, they simply cannot bear the idea of returning to the crushing rituals of the court, and instead set off alone, rarely removing their suits of armour and living only for battle. Other Freeblade Knights have made a personal oath or pact to carry out a certain task that requires they travel across the galaxy in order to fulfil it. Most commonly, though, a Freeblade Knight is simply the last surviving member of his house, left without a liege lord and with no option but to travel across the galaxy until he finds a new master or dies in the attempt. In all these cases, and many more, a Freeblade Knight is no longer a member of the house they once belonged to. If they are the last surviving member of the house, they may retain their former heraldry as a mark of respect, but usually a Freeblade will change the colour of his armour and the markings upon it and take on a new name to mark the change in his status. The names of some Freeblades, such as the Knight of Dark Shadows, who fought in the Reign of Blood, and Retribution Incarnate, who travelled alongside Solar Macharius during his conquests, are revered as dedicated warriors that would never admit defeat, no matter what odds were arrayed against them.
Freeblades either set out on their own, wandering the stars in search of a worthy cause, or else they settle in further isolation, offering their protection to those who need it. They tend to travel alone, or with a small group of retainers and Sacristans, but sometimes circumstances will result in small groups of Freeblades banding together, fighting in much the same manner as a household detachment, but with a bond forged in battle rather than inherited through blood. Not belonging to a house does nothing to reduce the effect of a Freeblade's psychological conditioning. Freeblade Knights still place great significance on acts of honour and duty, perhaps even more so than before. Once they have given their word or set their mind on a task, they will follow it through, come what may, even at the cost of their own lives. They also feel it is their responsibility to protect those that are unable to protect themselves, and to punish those that prey on the weak. They carry out such tasks with a brutal efficiency, leaving only death in their wake and then moving on. This has meant that the Freeblade Knights have gained an almost legendary reputation amongst the ordinary citizens of the Imperium. Such glory, however, means nothing to these lonely, battle-hardened warriors. They are not interested in either praise or reward from those they defend, and their only comforts are found in their long, endless journey and the hot adrenaline rush of battle.
The war machines utilised by the Imperial Knights were orginally built with the intention of helping with the work of human colonisation. That inherent practicality was communicated in many of the aspects of their current design. For example, the Reaper Chainsword, considered such a fearsome weapon on the battlefield, was clearly once intended for clearing huge areas of vegetation for the early settlers. Each of the weapons has heavy-duty lifting hooks attached to it, and one can imagine the original practical colonists hooking up digging or lifting apparatus just as easily as they could remove a powerful Battle Cannon out of stores to fend off marauding Orks or Eldar. Many of the practical elements of the original endoskeleton of the Knights' war machines are now hidden under the sloped armour plates and heraldry of the Imperial Knight. If one were able to penetrate beneath the heavy layers of thick protective armour plates, the war machine would resemble the functional construction machines of the past when the colonists first used them to defend their early settlements.
Knight armour comes in a wide variety of forms, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. The two most commonly seen types are the Knight Paladin and the Knight Errant. These both use the same basic body form, but are fitted with different weapon arrays. Each is well-liked for its balanced and deadly combination of manoeuvrability, protection and firepower. All Imperial Knights are protected by thick adamantium armour and are fitted with powerful weapon systems. Usually, this entails two primary weapons, one attached to each of its "arms", which will be supplemented by a number of secondary weapon systems fitted to its body and shoulders. The hand-forged armour that protects each Knight was crafted long ago, and elements such as the individual armour plates, helm or crests can therefore vary considerably depending on the skill of the artisan who made them. The armour is often lavishly detailed and adorned with complex heraldry that reveals the Knight's allegiances and the deeds he has accomplished in battle.
- Knight Paladin - The Knight Paladin is the archetypal Knight walker, usually armed with a large calibre Battle Cannon and a giant Knight-sized Chainsword. The Battle Cannon possesses a long range and is capable of piercing even a true Titan's armour. The Chainswords used by Knight Paladins are described as being easily as destructive as the close combat weapons used by the larger Warhound-class Scout Titans, capable of harming even an Imperator 's armour plating.
- Knight Errant - The Knight Errant is based on the same body as the Knight Paladin, but serves a more specialised purpose. Armed with potent Thermal Lances, it is highly suited to attacking large targets such as Chaos Titans and even Mega-Gargants, vaporising steel and flesh with equal ease. Like the Knight Paladin, the Knight Errant is also equipped with a close combat weapon supplementing its visor-mounted Shock Lance, although this pattern's most traditional armament is a Power Gauntlet. With such a weapons load-out, the Knight Errant is capable of inflicting notable punishment upon the largest of vehicles.
- Knight Lancer - The Knight Lancer is a variant of the standard Knight suit that has been designed for speed and agility. The Knight Lancer is most usually used to perform scouting actions, outflank enemy forces and distract them while heavier units can position themselves to attack. The Knight Lancer is equipped with a Battle Cannon to give it long range fighting capability, but its true armament is the Power Lance. The Power Lance is a relatively simple upgrade to the standard Shock Lance that is mounted on other Knight patterns. It operates by intensifying the bolt of energy normally expelled from Shock Lances, changing it into a searing arc of lightning capable of rending all but the strongest of armour plating and causing havoc in enemy ranks. The Power Lance has a very short range, but its nature makes it the perfect weapon for hit-and-run attacks.
- Knight Crusader - The Knight Crusader alongside its counterpart the Knight Castellan are the heaviest types of Knight manufactured by Mechanicus Forge Worlds. These Knights are slower and less nimble than their kin, but benefit from much heavier weaponry and increased firepower as well as considerably thicker and sturdier armour plate. Because of their great bulk, the Crusader and the Castellan cannot move fast enough to generate the charge needed to fire a Shock Lance. Instead, they are used in a fire support role, providing covering fire for the other Knights and allowing them to charge in and engage the enemy in melee, whilst also picking off threats to the main force from a safe distance. The most common and notable feature of these Knight patterns is the modified shoulder-mounted Quake Cannon -- a massive artillery piece most often found on Warlord-class Titans or mounted on Imperator-class Titans' carapace hardpoints, capable of destroying Titans and entire buildings alike. The Knight Crusader supplements its Quake Cannon with a twin-linked Lascannon, used to destroy armoured targets at extreme range. Coupled with the Knight Crusader's excellent frontal shielding, this combination makes for a deadly fire support unit.
- Knight Castellan - The Knight Castellan is identical to the Knight Crusader in every respect but one: rather than using Lascannons, the Knight Castellan supplements its weaponry with a multi-barrelled Autocannon. Although this weapon is relatively short-ranged, the hail of shells it delivers can easily cut down swathes of most enemy infantry and light vehicle units, or strip a Titan of its Void Shields in an instant.
- Knight Baron - The Knight Baron is piloted by a superior warrior with razor-sharp combat and Knight-handling skills. A Baron Knight usually leads a Knight squadron into battle. As a sign of their command and societal status, every Baron uses a Knight custom-built to their exact specifications. This Knight pattern's armour plating is thick and resilient, and heavily decorated with House symbols and fluttering pennants in the colours of the Baron's estates. A Knight Baron is usually armed with a Battle Cannon and the destructive Power Lance, usually only found on Knight Lancers -- which also means that despite its exceptional sturdiness, the Knight Baron's armour is light enough to allow the machine to move fast enough to generate the charge necessary to operate the weapon, and to keep up with the charging Knight Lancers. In battle, the Knight Baron leads the assaults of his kinsmen, crashing through enemy lines like a bolt of lightning with his followers hacking into the foe around him with redoubled pride and fervour.
Note: The next pattern of Knight, the Knight Warden, only appears in a single source containing information that has been rendered partially obsolete. For completeness' sake, however, it has been included in this list. See the Canon Conflict section for more information
- Knight Warden - When a member of a Knight House reaches old age, he is allowed to retire, passing his armour down to his eldest descendant and instead donning the suit of a Knight Warden. Wardens are charged with defending the family household and serving the members of their House with sage advice. Although no longer as quick as their younger kin, their experience and expertise more than make up for this falling. Wardens are armed with long-ranged, heavy weapons and are well-armoured, but are not equipped with Shock Lances. A Squire cannot become a Warden, and must at least be a full Knight. Those who proceed to attain the rank of a Lord or are already Lords when they retire are instead reffered to as "Seneschals". A Warden's battle armour is always painted almost entirely white, with only a single plate painted in a fashion adequate to the individual's rank.
Ritual of Becoming
"I will uphold the honour of my house, our brotherhood gives me strength. I will show no mercy to my foes, none shall withstand my fury. I will defend the sanctity of Sacred Mountain, no enemy shall tread Alaric Prime unpunished. I will never forsake my oath, only in death does duty end."
- — House Degallio's Oath of Becoming
Suits of Knight armour are similar to Titans, in that they are controlled through neural interface sockets surgically inserted into the Noble pilot's cerebrum and cerebellum. The pilot sits in a control platform called a Throne Mechanicum, where umbilical interface cords are attached to his neural sockets. The Throne Mechanicum is then, in turn, plugged into the suit of Knight armour, allowing the Noble to control its movements as if it were part of his own body and to receive sensory feedback from the suit so that he can see what it sees, and feel what it feels. This interface allows an Imperial Knight to move with a fluid grace that can only be matched by the war machines of the Eldar. At the heart of every knightly stronghold is a single massive building known simply as the Sanctuary. It is here that the suits of Knight armour are stored when not in use and where the Nobles undergo the rituals and procedures that allow them to bond with their Thrones Mechanicum. These Sanctuaries are incredibly ancient structures, built when the original colony ships first landed on the Knight worlds. The essential functions of the Sanctuaries also originate from that time, though the changes and modifications made to the equipment over the millennia mean it would be unrecognizable to those that first installed it.
It is in the Sanctuary that young Nobles undergo the bonding process that imprints their personality into a Throne Mechanicum, in a procedure known as the Ritual of Becoming. This process takes place in a special room known as the Chamber of Echoes. The imprinting process is a lengthy, sometimes dangerous, business. It has become a rite of passage for young Nobles -– the process of leaving behind their childhood once and for all. When he is old enough, a son of the household who is designated to become a Noble is fitted with the sacred neural sockets and then undertakes a vigil, remaining seated in the Throne Mechanicum that has been assigned to him throughout a long night in the Chamber of Echoes. The nature of this ordeal, and the inherent dangers associated with the neural interfacing process, mean that more than a tenth of all supplicants are either driven mad by the process or suffer fatal aneurysms brought about by neurological feedback. Assuming it is successful, the imprinting process has two important side-effects. Firstly, the imprint tends to exaggerate dominant aspects of the young Noble's personality, especially with regard to the emotions he is feeling during his vigil. If he is scared, the imprint on the Throne will always be of a nervous tendency, making the suit difficult to control in combat. If the Noble is angry with someone, the imprint will always loathe that person, even if the Noble has long since forgiven or forgotten them. When a Noble dies, his Throne Mechanicum retains some of his character, and these ghosts whisper to each supplicant through the long vigil in the Chamber of Echoes.
However, in addition to imprinting the Noble's personality upon the Throne Mechanicum, the mind-link technology directly affects the personality of the Noble himself. It does this by implanting strong positive associations to notions of fealty, obligation and hierarchy, as well as a deep respect for the Noble's ancestors. Exactly why and how these things are made to happen is something of a mystery, but it seems most likely that the mind-altering feedback routines were intentionally included to limit the potential of a Noble to go rogue and turn on the people he was meant to protect. Once a Throne Mechanicum has been imprinted, it is stored in the Communion Dome, which lies atop each Sanctuary. This chamber is large and circular, with walls that are lined with all the Thrones Mechanicum of the household's Nobles. When a Noble wishes to interface with his suit of Knight armour, he sits upon his Throne and instigates the Protocols of Joining. Umbilical cords attach themselves to the Noble's neural sockets, and then a section of wall behind the throne yawns open. The Throne Mechanicum slides backwards, and descends from the Communion Dome through a series of transport tunnels, before finally sliding into the waiting cockpit of the Noble's suit of Knight armour. This final step in the process takes place in a massive hangar known as the Vault Transcendent, which forms the ground floor of the Sanctuary. This huge hall is large enough to hold all of the stronghold's Knights. As soon as Noble, Throne and Knight armour are united, the three become as one, and the Imperial Knight powers into life. Vast doors open in the outer walls of the Sanctuary, and the Knight strides forth to battle.
Knights At War
When the Titan Legions of the Adeptus Mechanicus march to war, contingents from the Knight worlds march beside them, and knightly houses will also send detachments of Knights to fight alongside other allies when they feel it is their duty or obligation to do so. Traditionally, each knightly house sends one or more detachments of household Knights to fight when a Titan Legion musters for war. The exact number of Knights in a household detachment varies considerably; when the call to arms is made, the representatives of the forge world where the Titan Legion is based will request that each house provide a certain number of Knights. Knightly houses are honour-bound to obey such summons, and will only fail to comply in the most dire of circumstances. Forfeiting such a commitment is a source of great shame and unlikely ever to be forgotten, either by the house itself, or their peers and rivals. Because of this, it is almost always the case that the full quota of Imperial Knights appear at the rallying point designated by the Tech-Priests, ready to be transported away to join the Titan Legion. Arriving at the war zone, the eager Knights will quickly be hurled into battle.
Usually, they are either tasked with fighting directly in support of the legion's larger Battle Titans, or operating independently as fast-moving scouts and protecting the flanks of the legion's slower-moving war machines. For almost all Imperial Knights, the call to fight as part of a Titan Legion is met with a burning enthusiasm. Knights from different household detachments vie with one another in acts of valour and heroism on the battlefield as well as through the spectacle of the banners and individual heraldry emblazoned on their suits. The chance to earn glory while at the same time escaping courtly life not just for days, but for years or even decades, is considered the greatest reward they are ever likely to receive. Occasionally, the Adeptus Mechanicus will decree that a household detachment must remain with the Titan Legion permanently. When this is the case, the Nobles will change their vows of allegiance and heraldry from their house to the Titan Legion they now serve, and will be given an honorific title by the master of the legion to better reflect their new status.
Knightly houses will also fight alongside Imperial Guard, Space Marine and other Imperial forces whenever they feel it is their duty to do so. Sometimes this will be in return for help they received when defending their home world against alien invasion, as in the example seen in 456.M38. The 832nd Lord of House Hawkshroud received aid against Dark Eldar raiding parties from the Mordian Iron Guard. The Mordian troops, under the command of Colonel Vargrif, helped defend the Hawkshrouds' stronghold against the Dark Eldar, foiling an attempt to kidnap Lord Hawkshroud’s consort in the process. Since that day, the Hawkshrouds feel honour-bound to provide aid to any descendants of the Vargrif line, should they be called upon to do so. Knightly houses also send household detachments to take part in off-world campaigns if they feel that their honour has been impinged in some way. Knights are proud warriors, and cannot stand to let any slight be ignored, as many an aggressor has found to their cost. It is not unheard of for a knightly house to hunt down and destroy an enemy that has invaded their home world, or for a house to send household detachments to help their allies defeat a hated enemy. This was something that the Tau Commander Shadowsun discovered when her emissaries so infuriated the ruler of House Terryn with their veiled threats and over-bearing attitude, that he led several household detachments of his Knights to help the Imperial defenders of Agrellan. Although Agrellan was eventually overrun, the Imperial Knights proved a formidable opponent for the Tau Empire, forcing Commander Shadowsun to deploy the newly designed XV104 Riptide Battlesuit to help counter them. Unfortunately for Shadowsun, the defeat on Agrellan has only deepened Patriarch Tybalt's loathing, and he has decreed that the honour of his house will not be satisfied until the upstart invaders have been driven back across the Damocles Gulf.
- Autocannon - An Autocannon is a fully automatic heavy ballistic weapon capable of firing a hail of high-velocity shells. The Autocannons used by the Knights are almost exclusively in the possession of Knight Castellans, and they are heavyweight, multi-barreled, high-caliber weapons, fitting armament for a fire support Titan. A Knight Castellan's Autocannon is capable of stripping a Titan of its Void Shields in a matter of seconds.
- Battle Cannon - A Battle Cannon is a weapon commonly seen mounted on the Leman Russ main battle tanks of the Imperial Guard. This ordnance is easily mounted on a Knight chassis and is a favoured weapon of many of Knight pilots.
- Bolter - Knights utilise small Bolters, relative to their own size, for protection against infantry boarding actions and to help mow down lightly armoured targets. Knight Bolters have a short range, and essentially are weapons only used in melee fights or when running down infantry formations.
- Chainsword - Many Knights utilise Titan-scale Chainswords to fight in melee, and it is a signature weapon of the Knight Paladins.
- Ion Shield - All Knights carry potent field generators called ion shields. The protective shields utilised by Knight Titans are different from the Void Shields employed by true Titans. This ancient technology works by projecting an energy field across a narrow arc to the front of the Knight. By quickly moving the position of the shield so that it intercepts enemy attacks, a Knight is able to survive even the heaviest fire, whilst still being able to fire its own weapons in return. The exact setting and positioning of the shield is essential, as the ion shield is only designed to deflect and slow shots, rather than absorb them in the manner of the void shields used on Imperial Titans. This means the effectiveness of the shield is partially dependent on the skill and experience of its operator. Although giving ample protection to the front, this shielding fails at protecting the sides of the machine and even more so -- its back, which is completely vulnerable. In addition, unlike Titan Void Shields, Knight Ion Shields are unrechargable during combat once they have been breached or collapsed under enemy fire.
- Lascannon - A Lascannon is a potent las weapon that fires high-energy laser beams capable of penetrating heavy armour at long range. Twin-linked Lascannons are used by Knight Crusaders for fire support purposes, and these Knights prefer those weapons over the Autocannons used by Knight Castellans for the same purpose due to their longer range.
- Powerfist - Powerfists are Knight-sized Power Weapons used chiefly by Knight Errants in melee combat.
- Power Lance - The Power Lance is for all intents and purposes a simple upgrade of the Shock Lance, intensifying its bolt of energy into a searing arc of lightning capable of dealing significant damage to any foe. This weapon is employed only by Knight Barons and Knight Lancers.
- Quake Cannon - A Quake Cannon is a massive artillery piece capable of shattering the armour of Titans or demolishing entire buildings. Quake Cannons are most usually placed on the arm hardpoints of Warlord-class Titans or on the carapace hardpoints of Imperator-class Titans. This is also a weapon employed by Knight Crusaders and Castellans. The Quake Cannon's great weight and these Knights' heavier armour prevents them from achieving the speeds necessary to make use of the Shock Lance.
- Shock Lance - The Shock Lance traces its beginning to a humble electrical device used to herd great beasts that roamed the Knight Worlds. It delivered a fairly powerful shock that was necessary to inflict any pain on the thick-hided animals and its potential as a tool of war has been quickly recongnised. It has since been weaponised and the Knight Paladins and Errants that form the bulk of a standard Knight force are equipped with Shock Lances The lances are mounted in the suits' visors, leading to a superstition rising amongst some that the Knights can kill with a glance. These weapons are used to release high voltage electromagnetic shocks on any targets that are in range. The engines of the Knight suits are fitted with huge dynamos that revolve as the Knight moves and charges into combat, storing an electric charge in capacitors located in the Knight suit's visor. When the Knight enters close combat, the charge is so great it can do nothing but ground itself -- usually via the enemy, delivering a devastating electric shock which can burn infantry to the bone and short out weapon and control systems. This weapon, although potent, prevents a Knight from charging a single target unless it is the size of a super-heavy vehicle or a Titan, lest they risk arcing the electric shock from their lances onto each other.
- Thermal Cannon - A Thermal Cannon is a heat-based weapon mounted on Knight Titans, presumably making use of Promethium fuel. It is a weapon often employed by Knight Errants, and is, along with the Powerfist, that pattern of Knight's signature weapon. This is only a tradition, however, and the Thermal Cannon is not tied solely to the Knight Errants and could be used by other patterns, if necessary.
- Throne Mechanicum - Suits of Knight armour are similar to Titans, in that they are controlled through neural interface sockets surgically inserted into the Noble pilot’s cerebrum and cerebellum. The pilot sits in a control platform called a Throne Mechanicum, where umbilical interface cords are attached to his neural sockets. The Throne Mechanicum is then, in turn, plugged into the suit of Knight armour, allowing the Noble to control its movements as if it were part of his own body and to receive sensory feedback from the suit so that he can see what it sees, and feel what it feels. This interface allows an Imperial Knight to move with a fluid grace that can only be matched by the war machines of the Eldar.
A Legacy of Honour
- The Age of Terra (M1-M15) - A combination of an enormous boom in population and Terra's rapidly-diminishing natural resources leaves humanity's birth planet on the brink of anarchy. As these problems increase in severity, Mankind begins to look farther afield – towards the stars. Mars is the first planet to be terraformed and settled. Colonial expeditions to explore space beyond the boundaries of the Sol system meet with success. However, the settlements furthest from Terra are forced to become increasingly self-sufficient due to the limitations of interstellar travel.
- The Age of Technology (M15-M25) - STC technology is mastered by some of the greatest scientific minds in Mankind's history and heralds a golden era of discovery, innovation and expansion. By harnessing the other-worldy gifts of the human psykers known as Navigators, Warp travel is developed, enabling starfaring ships to swiftly travel enormous distances across space. STC systems transform the way that new worlds are settled. The first Knight worlds are established as human colonies begin to flourish on more than a million worlds. Towards the end of this remarkable era, the ever-increasing number of human psykers and an over-reliance on technology ultimately leads to the downfall of Mankind's glorious expansion, which descends into turmoil, anarchy and war.
- The Knights Stand Alone (c.M23) - Influenced by the Thrones Mechanicum of their Knight suits, the aristocracy of the feudal societies established on each Knight world remain conservative and most are instinctively mistrustful of any psykers in their midst. As a result, many of the Knight worlds resist the madness that grips so many other human colonies. Though daemonic possessions and devastating psychic backlashes do indeed threaten many Knight worlds, the military strength of the Knights and their rigid societal organisations largely serve to protect them. The ancient records of many knightly houses bear reference to this troubled time, of Knights duelling gigantic Warp entities or battling knee-deep against an endless tide of Daemons from beyond the veil of reality.
- The Age of Strife (M25-M30) - Human worlds throughout the galaxy are isolated by Warp storms of terrible ferocity. A disastrous age of suspicion and dread begins as internecine conflict tears human civilisation apart. Fear and superstition lead to a regression in Mankind's mastery of science and many technological marvels of the previous age are lost to paranoia and war. Aliens and Daemons alike prey on Humanity's vulnerability, and although many planets are subjugated or lost, the surviving Knight worlds continue to stand firm through this turbulent time -– however, none do so without earning scars that linger to this day.
- The Emperor Arrives on Mars (c.M30) - Knight Taymon Verticorda, of House Taranis, is the first to encounter the Emperor on his arrival on Mars. In his guise as the Omnissiah, the Emperor forges an auspicious alliance between Mars and the newly unified Terra that forms the backbone of his fledgling Imperium. This pact becomes known as the Treaty of Mars, otherwise known as the Treaty of Olympus Mons to the Mechanicum. Preparations are made for a great undertaking to reunite the lost worlds of Mankind.
- The Great Crusade Begins (798.M3)
- The First of Many (c.850.M30) - The Knight world of Chrysis is rediscovered. The Mechanicum uses its influence to claim exclusive trading rights with many of the Knight worlds that are later found. Forge worlds are established near mineral-rich Knight worlds, and bonds of mutual respect and military support become commonplace between the Mechanicum and the knightly houses.
- The Horus Heresy (005-014.M31) - In an act of staggering treason, Warmaster Horus declares himself the rightful ruler of Mankind. The base treachery of the Emperor's favoured son shatters the newly founded Imperium and sets the galaxy aflame. Brother fights brother as fully half of the Space Marine Legions side with the traitor Horus, alongside numerous Titan Legions and countless regiments of the Imperial Army.
- A Devine Treachery (009.M31) - On the planet of Molech, the sudden defection of House Devine proves to be the pivotal factor in the defeat of the loyalist forces seeking to halt Horus' relentless advance on Terra. As the Warmaster unleashes a massive coordinated assault, the planet's defenders are thrown into disarray when the plasma reactor of the Imperator Titan, Paragon of Terra, is destroyed. Thousands of loyalists are immolated in a blinding flash as a miniature sun erupts from the Titan's core to leave a smoking crater half a mile wide. In the wake of the catastrophic blast, a spearhead of traitor Titans marches through the gap in the Imperial lines. Caught between the treacherous Knights of House Devine and Horus' rampant forces, the shattered remnants of Molech's defenders are slaughtered without mercy.
- The Death of Traitors (c.M31) - Horus lies dead at the hands of the Emperor. But so high is the cost of victory that many seek solace in hounding the fleeing traitors across the stars rather than face the task of rebuilding the shattered Imperium. This campaign of vengeance is known as the Scouring. The surviving knightly houses with the strength to fight unanimously join in this crusade of retribution. Believing the honour of the many to be stained by the treachery of the few, the Imperial Knights hunt down the knightly houses that sided with Horus with extreme prejudice, seeking to redeem their tarnished reputation. Filled with righteous indignation, a combined strike force of Knights from Houses Cadmus, Terryn and Borgius annihilates the turncoats of House Devine as Imperial forces reclaim Molech.
- Defiance on Vorinth (544.M32) - An Ork WAAAGH! of unprecedented scale sweeps into Imperial space. Hundreds of worlds are devastated before the Ork menace is finally defeated. Lying directly in the path of the enormous greenskin armada, the Knight world of Vorinth is one of the first planets to fall. Though they fight bravely, the Knights of Houses Illius and Nero are impossibly outnumbered and die to the last in combat with the all-conquering Orks. With the main greenskin host advancing on Adamant Keep -– the stronghold of House Illius -– the surviving Knights of both houses gather for one last charge. The Orks are totally unprepared for the sudden ferocity of the Knights' counter-attack and suffer heavy losses as the battle cannons of the Paladins blast smoking holes in the Ork lines. The Knights Errant take advantage of the stalling Ork assault to crash into their crude vehicle squadrons and carve them to ruin. Only when a mob of twenty Stompas rampages into the fray are the Knights finally overwhelmed. Twice, the solemn tolling of the Bell of Lost Souls is heard as Terra mourns the passing of the rulers of Houses Illius and Nero.
- The Aphex Wars (369.M34)
- A Long-awaited Return (784.M34) - After more than a century of self-imposed exile as a Freeblade household detachment, the Agaron brothers return to the Knight world of Silverdawn after the death of their father. The siblings are welcomed back as heroes after the disastrous reign of their sire. Basilio, the eldest of the three, re-establishes trade with the nearby forge worlds of Estaban III and VII.
- The War of Recovery (104.M36) - Twelve full houses of Imperial Knights accompany an expedition led by the Adeptus Mechanicus into the system of planets known as the Mortuam Chain. Despite the fighting against the region’s xenos overseers dragging on for more than a century, the campaign is ultimately a resounding success. Many human colonies are freed from alien servitude. This is an irrelevance to the Adeptus Mechanicus, compared to the priceless fragments of STC archeotech that are recovered.
- Betrayal (550.M37) - The Occlusiad War, also known simply as the Occlusiad, is a major conflict that begins in 550.M37 on the northwestern fringe of the Segmentum Obscurus between the Imperium of Man and the Heretek known as the Blind King. For the first time in thousands of years, a knightly house betrays its oaths of loyalty, joining the Apostles of the Blind King to cause ruinous destruction across the northwestern fringe. Though the Blind King's rogue Tech-Priests are eventually defeated, the traitorous Knights of House Drakon remain unaccounted for.
- The Hunt for Andronicus
- Justice (986.M38) - More than a thousand years after betraying their oaths of loyalty to the Imperium, the traitor Knights of House Drakon re-emerge at the head of a twisted host of Daemon machines created by the Dark Mechanicum. The warp-forged monstrosities are finally defeated amid the desecrated ruins of the forge world, Solemnium, after the Iron Hands Space Marine Chapter brings them to battle. However, it is the actions of a single Freeblade Knight that travels with the Space Marines that determine the course of the war. Known only as Justice, the Freeblade displays an incredible aptitude for destroying the traitor Knights, earning seven confirmed kills during the course of the war. Rumours abound in the wake of the conflict of quite how the lone Knight achieved such a mastery of combat against others of his kind. Of their enigmatic ally's past, however, the Iron Hands would not speak. Despite some of House Drakon's Knights escaping Imperial reprisal, their strength is now greatly diminished.
- The Red Harvest of Dalanthe (888.M39) - When a harvest moon hangs in the skies above Dalanthe, the agri-workers put the children's stories of the Gorehaunter to the back of their minds. Though many citizens deride him for it, the Freeblade known as Vigilantus stands on silent guard at Dalanthe's High Templus for three long months. When a Warp breach opens during a riot in Executioner's Square, a goliath of brass and bone rampages out through the populace. It is met in battle by Vigilantus. Though the Knight is torn limb from limb, his last act is to decapitate the raging Lord of Skulls with a blast from his thermal cannon, banishing it back to the Warp for another thousand years.
- The Many Quests of Theodric the Wanderer (853-999.M40)
- Not Even in Death (854.M40) - A trio of Knights from House Krast join Space Marines from the Ultramarines Space Marine Chapter to defend the Mining World of Gorvax against a host of Eldar ghost warriors from Iyanden Craftworld. A Knight suit's Throne Mechanicum takes control after its pilot is slain by a xenos sniper, the echoes of spirits long dead guiding the unmanned Knight into battle once more. The Knight carves its way through countless wraithbone constructs before two Wraithknights, the largest and mightiest of the xenos walkers, finally bring it down in an epic duel of giant war machines. Though the Eldar are eventually defeated, victory on Gorvax does not belong to the living.
- First Contact (112.M41) - The Imperium makes first contact with the Knight world of Kragh after a localised Warp Storm, which has been raging for over twenty millennia, finally abates. Though much of the planet's surviving technology is revealed to be incredibly archaic, the Knight suits remain in remarkable condition thanks to a long-lost piece of STC technology. Initial attempts to integrate Kragh into the Imperial fold are met with open hostility as the planet's two knightly houses react to the perceived threat with deadly force. Peace is finally brokered by Baron Jakobus, a venerable Knight Seneschal greatly respected by both houses –- but the fragile ceasefire is jeopardised almost immediately as a trio of Tech Adepts attempt to recover the priceless STC archeotech and return it to Mars.
- Sport for Commorragh (154.M41) - A Dark Eldar raid captures a House Cadmus Knight for bloody sport in the arenas of Commorragh. He bravely duels the creations of the Haemonculi for thirty days before eventually being rendered down by three Engines of Pain.
- The Duel of the Crimson Glaives (178.M41) - Eldar assault the agri-moon of Tarvel III, destroying hab-complexes in the search for ancient artefacts. Three Freeblades band together to defend the beleaguered citizens and become known as the Crimson Glaives. As soon as the last Eldar raider is driven from the moon, the Knights vanish without trace.
- The Tarsok Incursion (230.M41) - Knights of House Taranis battle a daemonic incursion on the world of Tarsok V, taking the fight to the towering Great Unclean One that leads the daemonic horde. Wading through a tide of Plaguebearers, Seneschal Halver's Knights advance on the corpulent horror while billowing clouds of flies sizzle against their ion shields and form drifts about their feet. The daemonic lord drowns one Knight in a tide of bile, and crushes two more beneath its weeping bulk. Yet the Knights' reaper chainswords carve through its rancid flesh and with a final, gurgling roar the Great Unclean One is banished. The remaining Daemons fade slowly from view, leaving the planet's surviving defenders to count the cost.
- Slaughter on the Fireplains (246.M41) - Knights of House Raven crush WAAAGH! Smogbelcha on Voth amid geysers of geothermal flame, despite suffering heavy losses of their own.
- Disaster on Nalibraxis II (632.M41) - During the Yoladrian Crusade, detachments from House Cadmus land upon the swamp world of Nalibraxis II. Marching in support of Catachan Jungle Fighters infantry regiments, the Knights are caught in a sorcerous ambush by forces of the Thousand Sons Traitor Legion. With the Catachans dead or devolved into mindless Chaos Spawn, the remaining handful of Knights resolve to fight their way back to their extraction point. Power armoured automata and scuttling Daemon Engines surround them, yet the surviving Nobles fight their way to freedom. After the battle, House Cadmus vows revenge upon the forces of the Thousand Sons, determined to expunge this stain upon their honour.
- Shadows Over Icnarus (784.M41) - An ancient evil awakens on the frontier world of Icnarus, human settlements vanishing one after another. Panic-stricken, its citizens retreat to the coastal city of Inmoran and a riot erupts around the planet's only spaceport. Rising from the sea, rusted metal warriors march into Inmoran killing all in their path, a blazing god of light at their fore. Just as all seems lost, a lone Imperial Knight appears. In a titanic struggle, the unknown Knight drives the invaders back into the sea and shatters the bindings of their god, sending it screaming into the ether.
- On The Trail of Traitors (883.M41) - Three entire knightly houses join forces with the renowned tank ace, Commander Pask, and his Cadian 423rd to exterminate a renegade Titan Legion. All of the Knights at Pask's disposal are deployed in one of the largest armoured conflicts in the Imperium's history. Knight Anthonis, of House Cadmus, wins much honour during the final battle, preventing Pask's Leman Russ Tank from being crushed beneath the mighty tread of the traitor Warlord-class Titan, Endless Hate, by blasting apart the war engine's descending leg scant moments before impact. Pask survives to lead his force to a great Imperial victory.
- Reawakening (975.M41) - In the Vidar Sector, the Knight world of Avarris is almost overrun by Necrons from the Sautekh Dynasty. Reawakening from their long slumber deep below the planet's surface, the Necron legions emerge and immediately begin a campaign of mass genocide against the planet's human population. It is only the skill of the Knights, and the effectiveness of their ion shields at repelling the deadly firepower of the advanced Necron weaponry, that brings the massacres to a halt. Though many are slain in the fighting, Avarris' three knightly houses slowly gain the upper hand in the conflict. As the bitter fighting grinds on, embattled household detachments of Imperial Knights gradually begin to drive the Necron forces back to their tomb complexes, and set about destroying them in their lairs.
- The Dragon Slain (993.M41) - Segmentum Command dispatches a relief force to evacuate Yorvith before it can be overrun by Hive Fleet Kraken. At their head ride a lance of Knights Errant from House Griffith, whose thunderous charge scatters the xenos swarms around Solartis spaceport. As battle rages and refugees flood aboard the evacuation ships, a Trygon erupts from the ground and winds itself around Sir Brannach's Knight. The noble Knight wrestles with the mighty bio-horror amid showers of sparks, before jamming his thermal cannon between its jaws and vapourising its skull in a spray of ichor. The evacuation craft take to the skies just minutes later, Griffith's Knights limping aboard the last ship moments before its ramp slams shut.
- The Battle of Burning Skies (998.M41) - A tendril of Hive Fleet Leviathan falls upon the Agri-World of Eireius, xenos bio-horrors rampaging across its floating jungles and vapour islands. A detachment of House Raven Knights are the first Imperial reinforcements to reach the planet, rallying the beleaguered defenders around the towering Eirebian spire-cities. In the micro-gravity of Eireius the Knights leap hundreds of metres from one spire to the next, their guns hammering Harpies and Hive Crones from the sky. Even the might of the Imperial Knights cannot save the planet, although their bravery buys time for its population to escape into the void.
- The Red WAAAGH! (443998.M41) - Warlord Grukk of the Red WAAAGH! ploughs into the densely populated Sanctus Reach, his crusade's juggernaut momentum smashing past the Space Marine homeworld of Obstiria to plunder the planets beyond. The Imperium prepares to make a stand upon Alaric Prime, a Feudal World of linked archipelagos and crumbling gaols. When a flotilla of Ork rust-ships make planetfall, the knightly houses of Alaric lead their Cadian allies in a worldwide counterattack. Warlord Grukk's bullish tactics take a heavy toll on the human defenders before the legendary Freeblade known as Gerantius, the Forgotten Knight, joins the conflict, tipping the war into a new phase of desperate battle.
- A Blade in the Void (512999.M41) - A Chaos wolf pack attacks the Imperial heavy transport Penitent Blade while en route to the war zones of Heloeum. When the vessel is boarded, the Nobles of House Krast mount their Knight suits and prepare to repel the Traitor Space Marines. In the vast vaulted cargo halls of the ship, the Knights crush the traitors underfoot and blast apart their vanguard of Terminators and Helbrutes. When a fresh wave of boarders are sent against the Penitent Blade, the Nobles order the cargo hall doors opened, so they might engage the incoming assault boats. Their craft scattered and destroyed, the traitors retreat into the void.
- The Fall of Agrellan (757999.M41) - The Tau Empire's Third Sphere Expansion surges through the Damocles Gulf before striking hard and fast upon the Hive World of Agrellan. Though the Imperial forces are hard pressed to counter the brilliant tactics employed by Commander Shadowsun, the timely arrival of several household detachments of Knights from House Terryn soon stems the tide. Time and again, the Knights sally forth from the hive city of Agrellan Prime, breaking through the xenos lines to take a heavy toll on formations of Broadside battlesuits and Hammerhead Gunships, using their ion shields to counter the devastating impacts of the Tau's rail weaponry. Only the mass deployment of prototype Riptide battlesuits forces the Knights to cease these attacks, a course of action that ultimately changes the course of the war.
- The 13th Black Crusade (995999.M41) - Houses Krast and Arokon join the Imperial forces rushing to reinforce the Cadian Gate against the Chaos hordes spewing forth from the Eye of Terror. The inbound Knights of House Arokon are feared lost amid the fierce etheric tides of Warp Storm Baphomael. However, news soon filters back to the Imperium that four household detachments of Knights bearing Arokon's colours have been seen taking the fight to the Forces of Chaos, shattering two large formations of Iron Warriors siege tanks with righteous fury.
Every Imperial Knight is a precious and valued war machine, revered by its noble pilot and painstakingly maintained by the house sacristans responsible for its upkeep. Each is painted in the glorious heraldry of its house, and decorated with imagery and iconography that tell of its homeworld, oaths and battle honours. The Knight Houses use an elaborate system of heraldry signifying their allegiance and the house to which they belong. Knights will use some variation of their house's heraldry as their livery, incorporating its themes and motifs, but no two liveries can be identical. All Knights bear striking, colourful liveries and often adorn their war machines with heraldic pennants. It is customary for the Knights to compete not only in combat feats, but also in the appearance of their war mounts. Each symbol on an Imperial Knight has a powerful resonance for its wearer and a deep inner meaning.
Most Knights carry a variety of pennants and banners proudly proclaiming their heritage and battle honours. These flags are flown from carapaces and weapons but, most commonly, hang from the pinions that drive the war machine's powerful legs. Although the houses remained independent and isolated from the rest of Mankind for millennia after the settlement of their homeworlds, their banners became more standardised when the nobles bent their knee to the Emperor of Mankind or the Adeptus Mechanicus in His stead. To this end, the banners of both Imperium-aligned and Mechanicus-aligned Knights are broadly similar. The general format of a house banner has the house crest in its full form in the upper half of the pennant. All Knights from a single house will carry this identical sigil. The lower portion of the banner is devoted to kill, honour and campaign markings. These will differ from individual to individual, depending on where they have served and what honours they have gained. The exact layout and composition of these honours also varies from house to house. Some Knight Houses prefer a relatively simple arrangement of these markings with coloured fields behind the icons, while other may favour a more complex array of icons and markings.
The kill campaign and honour badges are a mix of local iconography (perhaps unique to a house) and sigils used by the armies of the Imperium. For example, if a Knight serves in an Imperial campaign, his banners would display the official badge for that action, and this sigil would also be worn by any Space Marines or Imperial Guardsmen involved. The banners belonging to Freeblade Knights exemplify their individualism. They often echo the livery the pilots choose to apply over the top of their old house colours. Mottoes are not uncommon, or alternative versions of the icons of these outcasts choose to identify themselves by. Such designs often reflect the fatalistic approach of the pilots -- with skulls and other memento mori represented in great number. The pride of the nobles who pilot the great Knight units is such that they will take any opportunity to proclaim their loyalties and achievements. To this end they often decorate the rear side of their banners. Though less visible, these spaces are used for catechisms, rolls of honour and lists of revered ancestors.
The Knight Houses trace their origins to a period thousands of standard years before the birth of the Imperium of Man, so their banners present a visual language that appears to have evolved through time. Each began as a simple device, such as the white horse of House Terryn. Over the millennia, new alliances and significant events caused it to evolve into something grander, reflecting the complex relationship between the Knight House and the Imperium itself. The white horse is symbolically linked to a vision that the house founder had way back in its distant past. Over the millennia, more heraldry, such as the helm above the crest and the swords behind were added (symbolic of an ancient battle), as was the house name. Later, when Seuitonius Terryn swore allegiance to the Imperium, the crest was marshalled, with the half-Aquila falling on the right side, and resplendent eagle wings as supporters. This half-and-half shows the observer the relationship between the knightly house and the Imperium, and the dichotomy of loyalty to their house and the wider Imperium.
Other forms of Knight House heraldry, such as the house banner of House Griffith, possess subtle nods to events in their long, glorious history in the crest and secondary devices they employ. These are often very grand, with a mythological aspect to whatever symbols are chosen. House Griffith has fought wars against dragons during its ancient history, and as such wear dragons as their crest. This desperate struggle served to harden the nobles into skilled and fierce warriors. Millennia later, House Griffith is sworn to the Imperium, and has earned a reputation for producing some of the most formidable warriors ever to sit upon the Throne Mechanicum. The heraldry of House Griffith is halved with a dragon motif, connecting to their ancient history, and a red-winged Aquila, professing loyalty to Terra. What truth lies behind the dragon symbol is now the subject of legend as much as historical fact, but to the warriors of House Griffith, it is very important.
Essentially the same is true of the Adeptus Mechanicus-aligned houses. Their imagery tends more towards the industrial, with harder edges to their designs, where tools replace the swords and axes displayed by other houses. In the place of Imperial Aquilas, these Imperial Knights wear the half-cog of the Adeptus Mechanicus. The same dual-split remains here, with loyalty divided between the house and the Machine Cult. A perfect example is the crest of House Raven, foremost among the knightly houses aligned to the Adeptus Mechanicus. Their ancient alliance was brought about when a lord of House Raven witnessed the Magi of Forge World Metalica rouse to life Knight suits that had lain inoperable for centuries. The seat of House Raven's power is their indomitable fortress known as the Keep Inviolate, a foreboding structure on the Knight World of Kolossi. The full house crest of Raven bears homage to their heritage with the dual image of the Keep Inviolate and the Opus Machina.
Finally, each Imperial Knight has the right to wear his own personal heraldry. Those of Imperial-aligned houses wear this on their front-right shoulder plate of their Knight. The form it takes is a matter of personal choice, although different houses have their own traditions. Adeptus Mechanicus-aligned houses do not typically bother with this at all. The nobles from houses such as Krast and Raven are willingly subsumed, and do not fear for their independence.
Each suit of Knight armour worn by nobles of an Imperial-aligned Knight House will always display three things: the major plates display house symbols, most typically the crest and lesser icons. The minor plates show Imperial heraldry. Finally, the Knight's front right shoulder guard is reserved for the personal heraldry of the noble pilot -- this is a heraldic design which is unique to that specific warrior and none other. Knight Houses dedicated to the service of the Machine God are less predisposed to tolerate personal heraldry; this does not, however, preclude individual differences. Also of note is the common practice of painting the Knight's faceplate in a black and white half tone.
- The Gauntlet - The symbol of an armoured gauntlet crushing a serpent symbolises House Krast's hatred of Chaos. The warriors of House Krast are violent opponents of the Forces of Chaos. Historically they were the first knightly house to join their forces to the Great Crusade, and they took great honour in their part of the Emperor's galactic conquest. But when the Horus Heresy reared its head, they suffered terribly. Chrysis, the home planet of House Krast, was utterly ravaged by the Traitors, and left as little more than a husk, reduced to a poisonous wasteland by the virus weapons unleashed upon it. Even 10,000 standard years later, the nobles now live in Void-Shielded enclaves, and look out at their ruined world and feel a burning hate. Their icon is now the embodiment of their quest for vengeance, and they proudly tally the many Chaos worshippers they have defeated. Prosecuting this endless battle against the forces of the Dark Gods has become their driving motivation. Such is their venom that there is a secret place on their homeworld, known as the Hammer of Traitors. Here they carve the names of Chaos worshippers they have destroyed -- and, rumour has it, bring prisoners to die terrible, gasping deaths in the poisonous air.
- Knightly Honours - Glorious kills are celebrated by Imperial Knights with icons to be worn on their personal banner or suit of Knight armour. These take many forms, from targetting symbols or small skulls to rings around weapon barrels. House Krast's greatest hate is for the Traitor Titan Legion of the Legio Mortis, who they hold accountable for the horrors unleashed on Chrysis. The broken death head symbol utilised by the Knights of House Krast is a modified badge of the Legio Mortis, with a crack which denotes a Titan kill of their most hated enemies.
Marks of Fealty
Every Imperial Knight wears an icon upon its carapace that proclaims the loyalty of its house to all that behold it:
- Imperial Eagle - The Imperial Eagle, or Aquila, is the icon worn by Imperium-aligned houses. It is worth noting that, while his icon proclaims a close military alliance, it does not imply any form of subjugation. Indeed, Knight Houses see themselves as equals (if not betters) of the Imperium, alongside whom they fight for mutual benefit and as a sign of friendship.
- Machina Opus - The icon of the Adeptus Mechanicus, also known as the Cog Mechanicum , is worn by Imperial Knights in houses which are aligned with the Priesthood of Mars. Houses that wear this mark not only fight alongside the Adeptus Mechanicus, and will answer a call for aid without hesitation, but can also rely on the industrial might of the Forge Worlds to supply and repair their war machines.
- Laurels Fidelis - Knights who take the mantle of Freeblades cast aside the heraldry of their former houses. Tradition dictates that these nobles adopt the Laurels Fidelis, a laurel-wreathed skull which indicates their continued loyalty towards the Imperium of Man, despite leaving their houses behind. An Imperial Knight wearing this symbol will fight for Mankind, even until death.
Despite the fact that there have been many cases of Freeblade Knights working in concert –- even as part of a household detachment –- over the Imperium's long history, the vast majority of them choose to fight alone. The reasons behind this solitary existence are many and varied, but it is certain that each Freeblade would have a long story to tell if ever he chose to reveal his past, though it is unlikely that the truth would ever be a pleasant one. It is their mysterious history that leads many Freeblades to forsake their origins and take on a whole new identity. Many of these Knights choose to hide behind a cryptic name, though whether or not it is possible to discern a glint of a Freeblade's past from his choice of title is an enigma in itself. It is likely that after many long years of relentless warfare, some Knights may even have forgotten why they took their first step along the path of the Freeblade. Unlike household Knights, Freeblades commonly choose a single colour as their suit's livery, adopting simple designs or patterns if any at all. Many choose to only show significant iconography on their tabard, though even these are symbolically selective in decoration. A Freeblade Knight's choice of livery and what passes for heraldry is unique, and no two Freeblades will ever look the same.
During the Horus Heresy, the galaxy was engulfed in the fiercest civil war Mankind has ever known. Those who remained loyal to the Emperor fought against their erstwhile brothers as the Warmaster Horus made his bid for power. In those days, bonds of brotherhood were shattered and mistrust was common, treachery becoming as much a weapon as Bolters and Battle Cannons. The Imperial Knights that did turn to Chaos have long since died but their souls live on as Daemons, floating within the shells of their corrupted war machines. The Knights themselves have also mutated, sprouting claws, tails and other horrendous natural weapons as blessings of the Dark Gods. When the war machines of a Knight House dedicated to the Ruinous Powers marches onto the battlefield, it spreads havoc, despair and death. When the Heresy finally ended, these Traitor Houses presumably fled into the Eye of Terror alongside the rest of the Forces of Chaos, and remain active to this day, now twisted and changed by the mutating power of the Warp. When a daemonic legion marches to war it is sometimes preceded by these Daemon Knights, spreading havoc and despair. In general, though, the innate conservatism of the knightly houses has made them resistant to the lures of the Chaos Gods, and Daemon Knights are therefore an extremely rare sight on the battlefields of the 41st Millennium.
Daemon Knights of Slaanesh
Imperial records are somewhat lacking in their information referring to the Knights in general, and this is only more true in regard to those nobles of the Knight Worlds who have embraced the fickle blessings of the Chaos Gods. Almost all knowledge of these Traitors comes from records concerning those of the Knights that have dedicated themselves to Slaanesh, and virtually nothing is known of those in service to the other Chaos Gods, or of those worshipping Chaos Undivided as a singular entity. The Daemon Knights of Slaanesh are the first element of an advancing Slaaneshi army, preceding the bulk of Chaos forces and Chaos Titans. Their task is to seek out the enemy, probe defences and attempt to flush them out of fortified positions. The Knights' chief advantage is their speed and agility, allowing them to easily outflank any enemy and to run down and exterminate any stragglers. Slaaneshi Daemon Knights do not use Shock Lances or Power Lances, as these weapons do not suit their style of combat. Akin to the Chaos Titans of Slaanesh, and the Eldar Titans that they emulate, the Daemon Knights are exceptionally nimble and agile, and they prefer to ambush their enemies and fight from afar, rather than charge headlong into close-quarters melee.
These Daemon Knights also do not utilise Power Fields. Instead, they are surrounded by a glittering wall of energy created by the warp-interface within them which anchors the daemonic spirit inside in the material realm. This shifting, swirling aura is called the Glamour of Slaanesh and makes the Daemon Knight very hard to target accurately. In effect, it works like an Eldar Holo-field, and is a yet another emulation of that race's Titans. Like the Holo-field, the Glamour of Slaanesh proves useless against barrages and other attacks spread over a wide area, as such weapons do not rely on pinpoint accuracy. Additionally, since the Glamour of Slaanesh is an interface with the Immaterium, it also provides a measure of protection against attacks drawing upon the Warp, such as Vortex Missiles or psychic powers.
Daemon Knight Patterns
- Hell-Strider - The Hell-Strider is the smallest of the Daemon Knights, armed with Lascannons and short-range, Knight-sized Melta Weapons. Hell-Striders are extremely mobile, able to flush out enemies from forests and ruins with their powerful but short ranged weaponry. Given sufficient numbers, Hell-Striders are capable of toppling Titans, whittling away the target's shields with Lascannons before closing in for the kill with their Melta-beams.
- Hell-Scourge - Hell-Scourges are one of the largest patterns of Slaaneshi Daemon Knights. As living machines in the service of the Prince of Chaos, they have crushed countless opponents in the last ten millenia, screeching deafening cries across the battlefield. They are the perfect predators, hunters who mercilessly run down their quarry with the bounding strides of their elegant, powerful legs. The Hell-Scourges attack without warning. As one appears, the enemy turn their weapons on its blurred form, only to see it disappear. At that moment, others attack from all sides, mowing through armour and flesh with their massive Castigator Cannons. Hell-Scourges possess a certain pack instinct and are in constant telepathic communication with each other. As such, they make exceptionally well-coordinated assaults, outflanking their enemies with ease. This telepathic contact seems to encompass all Hell-Scourges present on the battlefield, or perhaps even further.
- Hell-Knight - Hell-Knights are one of the most specialised types of Daemon Knights. Aside from Bolters, their main weapon is a Thermal Lance which, albeit short-ranged, has enough power to pierce almost any armour plate with relative ease. Hell-Knights are often used to hunt down enemy Knights and Titans, exploiting their speed to attack from the sides and overwhelm opponents. In addition to this, they are perfectly suited to perform ambushes, and are often used in this respect. A notable exploit of the Hell-Knights took place on the Hive World of Kado as part of a massive daemonic incursion. Imperial forces and the Titans of the Legio Crucius suffered grave losses in the defence of that world's capital hive city. As the Titans fired upon the advancing hordes of Chaos, felling hundreds upon hundreds of daemons and Heretics, a large force of Slaaneshi Daemon Knights infiltrated the hive city's massive subterranean transportation network. As the battle raged above them, the Chaos walkers sped through the dimly lit tunnels and corridors, quickly obliterating any resistance they encountered. On the second day of the hive city's siege, the Daemon Knights emerged from beneath the ground and burst into the main streets and arcades of the city, finding themselves behind the Titans of the Legio Crucius, and within firing distance. With a single massed salvo from the Daemon Knights' Thermal Lances, nearly the entire Loyalist Titan battlegroup was destroyed, the august forms of the Titans turned into molten slag. Amongst the victims of this attack was the colossal Praeco Deictus, an Imperator-class Battle Titan which had survived the grim days of the Horus Heresy and brought victory to the Imperium on over a thousand worlds.
Known Knight Houses
- House Arakon
- House Arundel
- House Beaumaris
- House Cadmus
- House Degallio
- House Dunstan
- House Griffith
- House Hawkshroud
- House Hawkwood
- House Hyperion
- House Khord
- House Krast
- House Lakar
- House Mortimer
- House Raven
- House Taranis
- House Terryn
- House Trainor
- House Vymar
- House Warwick
The history of the Knight war machines as presented above is canon culled from the game Titan Legions and the corresponding Codex Titanicus, as well as in the 178th issue of the United Kingdom Edition of White Dwarf magazine and the new Codex: Imperial Knights for the 6th Edition of the game. Knight Titans did not exist in the original release of Adeptus Titanicus, however, they were added in a different incarnation as a supplement found in UK Edition White Dwarf, issue 126th. This account of the Knights' history differed from that given above and has largely been superseded by newer canon, however for a number of reasons -- chief amongst them being the presence of relevant information pertaining to the Eldar Knights -- it has been included in the article and is presented below. Please note that this version contains old background information that is no longer considered canon according to the current iteration of the Warhammer 40K universe -- for example the existence of the Imperial Cult as the official doctrine of the Imperium of Man in the pre-Heresy era.
During the Dark Age of Technology Mankind sent forth many scout and explorer parties to seek out worlds viable for mass production of food for the huge Hive Worlds that the majority of the race inhabited. Such agricultural worlds copied farming techniques learned from Eldar Exodite and Knight Clans already present on some worlds discovered by the humans. The Humans began utilising combat walkers invented by the Eldar and referred to them as "Knights". In a period referred to by the Exodites as The Coming of Men, the xenos and the human colonists clashed in a number of bloody conflicts as the Eldar Knights sought to protect their homes from interlopers.
When these planets were cut off in the Age of Strife, they became Feral Worlds and a warrior aristocracy rose to prominence amongst its human populations, mimicking the lifestyle of the Eldar Clans. On many worlds, the Eldar Knight Clans reconquered the lands they had lost, and settled into a pattern of raiding and battling against the humans, as well as each other. The wealth and power of the human Knight Houses and the Eldar Clans was based on massive herds of Megasaurs -- great beasts created by cloning and genetic engineering by the Eldar prior to the Fall of the Eldar, made to be an efficient source of protein-rich food. These herds diminished over the course of fighting, but as the only readily available food source, they remained vitally important.
While the Eldar shared their duties throughout the clan, the humans enforced a feudal system on their subordinates. A sub-class called the "Drovers" was to look after the herds, as the nobility would not soil their hands with such work. The Drovers used walkers similar to those of their masters, but they were, by law, not armed with any weapons, despite the fact that they faced very serious threats in the form of predators and xenos raids. This forced the Drovers to rely on the Knights for protection, and created a dependency comfortable for the nobles, as it made revolt virtually impossible.
In addition to the Knight war machines, every House had multiple men-at-arms in its employ, resembling somewhat modern Planetary Defence Forces, although possessing a much smaller amount of heavy equipment. The Knights themselves would retire when they reached old age, passing their Battle Armour down to their heir, and in its stead donning the armour of a Warden. They would then take the task of protecting the household and lending its members their advice.
On the majority of these worlds, artificers and technicians became the most important subjects of the warrior nobility. Initially, they only maintained the Knight walkers, but soon learned to speak with one voice, threatening to withdraw their services from any House that would not heed their words. They styled themselves as a priesthood for the half-forgotten mysteries of technology and were called the Sacristans. As their power grew, they arbitrated between the Knight Houses and ensured that the headstrong nobles did not wipe out one another in bitter feuds. The perpetual dangers of their worlds meant that the Humans could ill afford wars of mutual attrition and genocide, and this necessitated the use of chivalric values to settle disputes. Eventually the Sacristans ritualised the values of Duty, Honour and Valour and passed these traditions through generations. With the acceptance of these values, the Knights became known as The Chivalry.
In addition to the threat presented by hostile Houses, The Chivalry had to conduct frequent battles against their worlds' indigenous predators. Hunting these beasts honed their martial skills into a deadly art, preparing them for periods of Warp instability, when the Immaterium spewed forth horrid, mutated beasts to prey upon the material realm. When such a monstrosity was sighted, all of The Chivalry would take on quests to destroy the beast before it could taint the land.
Thousands of standard years after their colonistation, these planets were rediscovered by Rogue Trader Jeffers and brought into the newborn Imperium of Man. When Jeffers described these agricultural worlds he referred to their inhabitants as "Knights," pointing out their many Knightly virtues as he emphasised their planets' worth to the Imperium both as a food source, and as a source of warriors readied for battle from the cradle. The Imperial Administratum agreed with Jeffers' findings and quickly set about rediscovering the rest of these long-lost Agri-Worlds. Much to their delight, the Imperial officials found that two thirds of the originally settled worlds still possess human populations, with all of their societies working along similar lines. The remaining worlds were either contested between human Knight Houses and Eldar Exodites, or held exclusively by the xenos Knight Clans with strong relations with their allied Craftworlds, trading raw material for technology.
Most often Knight Worlds became affiliated with a particular Titan Forge World, supplying it with food and raw materials, whilst its Sacristans would fall under the control of the Adeptus Mechanicus. Other Knight Worlds were left with a large degree of autonomy, required only to produce food and obey the call to arms when it was given. The Imperial Cult was introduced in such a way that The Chivalry could be called on by the Imperium to join a "Crusade". Forsaking old rivalries, the Knights would form family units to fight with the Titan Legions or alongside the Imperial Guard. Knights of a given house would be led by a noble holding the rank of a Lord -- or the corresponding title of a Seneschal if he happened to be a Warden. Young Knights sometimes did not possess their own armour, but trained using that of their father. When fighting in a Crusade they were given their own armour, built upon a Mechanicus Forge World. Once they returned home they were allowed to retain the armour and form their own House.
- Codex: Imperial Knights (6th Edition)
- Titan Legions (2nd Edition), pp. 27-30, 54
- White Dwarf 5 (March 01, 2014) (UK) , "Codex: Imperial Knights", pp. 5-51, 62-65, 67-68, 73
- White Dwarf 4 (February 22, 2014) (UK) , "Imperial Knight" by Jervis Johnson, pp. 5-15, 28-33, 52-58
- White Dwarf 190 (UK), "Epic: Slaanesh War Machines," pp. 27-31
- White Dwarf 182 (UK), " 'Eavy Metal: Forces of the Imperium," pg. 38; "Titan Legions: Knight Households," pp. 39-40
- White Dwarf 180 (UK), " 'Eavy Metal: Imperial Knights", pg. 26
- White Dwarf 178 (UK), "The Titan Legions," by Rick Priestly, pp. 43-50
- White Dwarf 126 (UK), "Knights: Eldar & Human War Machines" by Andy Chambers, pp. 28-45
- Mechanicum (Novel) by Graham McNeill
- Games Workshop Online Catalogue - Imperial Knights
- Games Workshop Online Catalogue - Imperial Knight Household Spearhead
- Games Workshop Online Catalogue - The Iron Brotherhood