- "With steel we are stronger, but without a soul we are nothing."
- — Iron Father Kardan Stronos
An Iron Father is a specialist officer unique to the Iron Hands Space Marine Chapter. A hybrid of the Chaplain and Techmarine roles found in Codex Astartes-compliant Chapters, to the Iron Hands, the duties of both are intricately intertwined. The Iron Fathers oversee the Chapter's spiritual health, but they also guide the Battle-Brothers in their journey from a being defined by the biological weakness of the flesh to a warrior forged of rage and iron.
An Ancient Order
One of the many anachronisms exhibited by the Iron Hands is their continued use of the rank of Iron Father. The first individuals to bear this title were not of the Xth Legion at all, but were instead engineer-mystics who maintained the Dark Age machineries of the Medusan clans. These original Iron Fathers wielded considerable influence thanks to their vital contribution to life on Medusa, and enjoyed positions in the hierarchy of each clan.
When Primarch Ferrus Manus forcibly introduced his Legion to the world they would call home, the rank of Frater Ferrum, or Iron Father, was adapted by those Battle-Brothers whose duty was the care of the Iron Hands' weapons, vehicles and armaments. Though the title has remained constant over the millennia, its meaning continued to change after the formation of the Chapter's ruling Iron Council. By the dawn of the 41st Millennium it had come to be an honorific, an additional title awarded to the esteemed individuals who were voted into the ranks of the Iron Council.
Any Battle-Brother of rank within the Iron Hands can become an Iron Father, from mighty Iron Captains, Iron Chaplains and Librarians, to Apothecaries and Veteran Sergeants. Historically, though, the most common recipients of this honour have been the Techmarines and Masters of the Forge -- those Iron Hands warriors whose own duties echo those of the Iron Fathers of old. Every Iron Hands Clan Company must always have at least one Iron Father amongst its ranks -- most will have more -- and the word of these individuals will often be heeded by their Battle-Brothers even over that of higher-ranking officers who are not themselves members of the Iron Council.
Given the atypical nature of the Iron Hands' Chapter dogma, it is not surprising that they espouse a highly divergent form of organisation. Instead of the conventional Chaplains fielded by most Codex Astartes-compliant Chapters, the Iron Hands maintain a special cadre of officers known as the Iron Fathers. These individuals combine the qualities of both a Chaplain and Techmarine.
It is the Iron Fathers who administer and oversee the Neophytes' ascension to full Initiate, and who, along with the Chapter's Apothecaries, conduct the many and escalating cybernetic augmentation surgeries an Iron Hands Battle-Brother undergoes throughout his service. The Iron Fathers are inspirational figures to their charges, shining exemplars of all that the Chapter holds dear. They preach unyielding hatred for the foes of the Emperor, and promise that one day their lost Primarch Ferrus Manus will return, to bring light to the benighted Imperium as he did to gloomy Medusa over 10,000 Terran years ago.
The Iron Father is considered the representative to the Chapter of both the Emperor of Mankind and the Adeptus Mechanicus' Cult Mechanicus. Unlike the Chaplains of other Chapters, however, the Iron Fathers do not receive a Rosarius from the Ecclesiarchy because of the perceived heresy of the Iron Hands' belief in the doctrines of the Omnissiah rather than the standard Imperial Creed. The Iron Fathers are schooled in the mysteries of the Machine Cult to a far greater degree than the Techmarines of most other Chapters. Like all Techmarines, they undergo a portion of their instruction under the supervision of the Tech-priests of the Cult Mechanicus. Yet, while most Techmarines maintain a mutually reserved distance from the Cult of Mars, the Iron Fathers appear to have far closer links, and are schooled in the most obscure of disciplines.
The use of Bionics is commonplace in the Imperium, yet the Iron Fathers are able to reconstruct the bodies of their charges right down to the cellular level, replacing the tiniest of biological functions with far superior mechanical components. It is only by way of the arts of the Iron Fathers and the skills they are taught by the Adeptus Mechanicus that an Iron Hands Astartes may be transformed from a genetically-enhanced warrior to something not far from a pure machine, without losing the essence of what it is to be a member of the Adeptus Astartes. A fully mechanised Iron Hands Battle-Brother is far more than an automaton controlled by a scrap of grey matter -- he is an unstoppable machine of war fuelled by faith and hatred, and utterly convinced of the truth of the dogma that the flesh is weak and that iron is strong.
Notable Iron Fathers
- Iron Father Kardan Stronos - Kardan Stronos is the de facto Chapter Master of the Iron Hands Chapter. Of all the Iron Fathers to have led the Iron Hands Chapter, none echo the glory of their Primarch Ferrus Manus more than Stronos. Since the loss of their Primarch, no single warrior has ever permanently led the Iron Hands. Instead, they are guided by the Council of Iron Fathers who appoint one amongst their number to command, according to the needs of the Chapter. So it is that an Iron Father might lead for the course of a campaign for which his particular skills make him singularly suited, and whilst that war rages, he wields all the power and responsibility of a Chapter Master. Upon the mission's conclusion, he cedes power back to the Iron Council, who then calculate the next Iron Father to lead them. It is testament to Kardan Stronos' skill as both warrior and commander that he has been reappointed as head of the Iron Council for over three hundred consecutive years.
- Iron Father Anatolus Gdolkin - Anatolus Gdolkin was born into a mining clan on Medusa. When he was sixteen standard years old he left home to enter the trials to become an Iron Hand. Granted a Bolter as his only weapon as part of the trials, he along with thirteen other youths journeyed across the harsh landscape of Medusa. In the end, only Gdolkin survived the many hardships out of his original band. In the final stages of the trials Gdolkin lost his left hand to a Combat Servitor. He collapsed from the trauma and blood loss, but was discovered by Iron Hands Astartes and returned to their base on Medusa. Considered to have successfully passed the trials, Gdolkin was welcomed into the Chapter and eventually rose to become an Iron Father. After the outbreak of the 13th Black Crusade, Gdolkin was given command of the Iron Hands Strike Team sent to aid Magos Omega Thule against the Chaos forces that had assaulted the world of Fornax Orbis Majoris. Gdolkin was accompanied on the mission by his blessed Combat Servitors Gibeon XII, Joab XIII, Gibal 674, and Ishmael 192. Gdolkin had wished to remain behind on Medusa to aid in the defence of his homeworld from the forces of Abaddon the Despoiler, but ancient pacts between the Adeptus Mechanicus and the Iron Hands required that the Chapter render aid to the Mechanicus whenever it was requested. Gdolkin and his Astartes faced off with the forces of Chaos that had infested the worlds of Fornax Orbis Majoris and Herod, but in both cases the Imperials were unable to prevent the servants of the Ruinous Powers from destroying certain ancient artefacts present on those worlds. In truth, the destruction of the two artefacts on those planets along with a third linked to them that had been destroyed earlier were all that was required to force Warp Storm Araken to once more manifest in realspace. Gdolkin soon learned why the servants of the Dark Gods were so interested in making this Warp Storm accessible once more, for within its swirling, aetheric eddies lay the world of Crucible, a long-lost Adeptus Mechanicus outpost. Gdolkin knew of ancient Mechanicus texts concerning Crucible which held that it was the home of the "Tomb of the Ironbound" which he interpreted as meaning it was the hidden resting place of the Iron Hands' lost Primarch Ferrus Manus. Gdolkin believed Ferrus lay in stasis on Crucible waiting to be awoken to aid his Chapter at its moment of greatest peril -- the coming assault of the 13th Black Crusade. But after the Strike Team's arrival on Crucible, it became clear that Gdolkin had been mistaken. The Tomb of the Ironbound did not refer to the resting place of the lost Primarch but actually to a surplus Titan Legion of the Mechanicus. The servants of the Chaos Gods sought to claim the Titans to add their awesome strength to the forces arrayed for the 13th Black Crusade. Unfortunately, when the Tech-priests accompanying the Space Marines examined the long-dormant God-engines they learned that such a long sojourn within the Warp had corrupted the great machines, transforming them into Chaos Titans which now presented a deadly threat to the Imperium. As the forces of Chaos led by the Word Bearers Dark Apostle Iscariot arrived on Crucible to claim their prize, the Iron Hands mobilised all their resources to stop them. Gdolkin managed to slay Iscariot though at the cost of crippling wounds, while his Strike Team successfully set off a chain reaction within the Plasma Reactors of the dormant Titans that destroyed the whole Legion, forever denying it to Abaddon and his allies. But the explosive force of so many Titans' self-destructing at once destabilised the world itself, and the Iron Hands were forced to teleport away to safety. While critically wounded in the combat against Iscariot, Gdolkin survived his mission and was interred within the sarcophagus of a venerable and sacred Dreadnought of the Chapter that once belonged to Venerable Dreadnought Talumech, slain in the defence of Medusa. For the Iron Father, there was no greater reward than to continue to serve the Emperor in a form no longer afflicted by the weaknesses of the flesh.
- Autek Mor - Known as "The Maimed" and the "Blood-Wrought", Autek Mor was both Iron Lord and Iron Father to the Iron Hands Legion's Morragul Clan Company during the Great Crusade of the late 30th Millennium. Autek Mor held a sinister reputation within his Legion, and dark rumours accompanied him long before the outbreak of the Horus Heresy, including whispered accusations that the origins of his gene-seed or perhaps his bloodline were not as they should be. A Terran by birth, he was a part of the Xth Legion's first intake and fought in the re-conquest of the Sol System. He held field command by the time of his Primarch Ferrus Manus' discovery, having already developed a reputation both as a weaponsmith and a malevolent soul, having killed several Astartes of his own Legion in duels over "slights of honour." He ruled his company with a cruel and unforgiving fist. His Morragul Clan became a sink for the outcasts and most unstable elements of the Iron Hands Legion, who fought and died under Mor's merciless command. No love was lost between Autek and his Primarch, but despite this, when his Grand Cruiser, the Red Talon, arrived at Istvaan V during the Drop Site Massacre when the void battle was at its height, he attacked in an attempt to reach the surface and was only driven off after sustaining massive damage, fleeing the Istvaan System dogged by murderous pursuit. He would eventually become the patriarch and first Chapter Master of the Second Founding Red Talons Chapter.
- Master of the Forge Xerill - Xerill is an Iron Father of the Iron Hands Chapter who is currently seconded to the Deathwatch and has served as a Master of the Forge for close to eight Terran decades. He joined a handful of like-minded, inquisitive Deathwatch Space Marines that have been drawn back to the study of nearly-deserted Watch Stations, now known as the Dead Stations, and the ancient traces of knowledge and prophecy they contained. These few members have since dedicated their lives to finally unravelling the enigma of the Jericho Reach known as the Dark Pattern -- a series of mysterious events that continue to unfold, presaged in numerous ancient prophecies foretelling of great strife and darkness are coming to pass in this area of space. Thanks to their interest in the Dead Stations, their peers refer to them as the "Dead Cabal." Xerill was inducted into their ranks fifty standard years ago after he recovered a series of Eldar Spirit Stones. His passion for understanding and unlocking the knowledge contained within xenos artefacts drew the attention of Inquisitor Ramaeus, who had him reassigned to permanent detail on the Dead Stations Vigil. Since that time, Xerill has embraced the Dead Cabal and has dedicated his tenure with the Deathwatch to studying as many xenos artefacts as he can. He is especially fascinated by anything relating to the Necrons and has undertaken many missions based on the slightest inclination that there could be Necron activity involved.
- Iron Father Paullian Blantar - Blantar is an Iron Father from the Kaargul Clan Company. This inspirational figure embodied every one of the Chapter's teachings, from the utter certainty that Ferrus Manus would one day return, to the hatred of all that is of the flesh. His knowledge of bionic enhancement is unparalleled, and his refinements of the augmentation process distinctly affected the direction of the Chapter. He led the dramatic counter-attack against the insidious Dark Eldar on the industrial world of Kaladrone, rescuing the badly wounded Warleader Bannus. Blantar personally performed the augmetic surgeries and augmentations that enabled the crippled form of Bannus to survive and go on to lead his company for many centuries to come. In fact, Bannus still leads his Clan Company as an ancient Venerable Dreadnought and is an integral part of the Chapter's current Great Council. Bannus' wisdom and experience continue to serve the Chapter to this day. Of equal legendary status was Blantar's disdain for his own organic body. Blantar constantly flayed his own body of the flesh he was born into, until eventually, towards the end of his extremely long and successful lifespan, only his mind remained. This was implanted into the towering frame of a mighty Dreadnought, and some say that in so doing his very soul was ex-loaded into the machine’s systems so that not a scrap of biological matter remained. Blantar serves as a permanent member of the Chapter's Great Council, having transcended the limits of his flesh and effectively attained immortality. Should Ferrus Manus ever return, as Chapter dogma asserts he will, it is certain that Paullian Blantar and any others who replicate his feat will be there to greet their Primarch, and to fight at his side in the final battle. To this day other Iron Fathers ritually scar their flesh in honour of one of the most renowned Iron Fathers of all time.
- Iron Father Gebren - Ever since the dawn of the Great Crusade, the most technically adept members of the Space Marine Legions have been sent to Mars to be trained as Adepts in the Cult Mechanicus, and Iron Father Gebren was one of the first and best. Gebren served during the Great Crusade and on through the dark days of the Horus Heresy. Gebren was trained by none other than Fabricator Locum Kane, who would later become the Loyalist Fabricator-General of Mars after the betrayal of Kelbor-Hal during the Schism of Mars.
- Iron Father Kosvorr - Iron Father Kosvorr dissects enemy squadrons with a methodical precision that is terrifying to behold. An Iron Hands Techmarine of great age and experience, Kosvorr has led squadrons of aircraft from his Chapter’s Armoury for over two centuries. His wealth of aerial combat experience is stored within his augmented cerebral databanks, ready to overlay his vision with predicted flight plans, fire solutions and strategic manoeuvres. All this allows Kosvorr to direct his squadrons to stay one step ahead of the enemy, leaving his victims screaming in frustration as the Iron Hands predict and punish their every move.
- Kristos - Kristos was an Iron Father of the Iron Hands. A commander of great renown in the Chapter's history, he took command of Clan Raukaan after the Skarvus Ambush and led that Clan Company to victory in the Slaughter on Dawnbreak and Battle for Columnus. The victory on Columnus over the Orks proved controversial, as during the battle Kristos deliberately sacrificed Raven Guard allies. Kristos insisted that the sacrifice had allowed him to earn victory and was the most logical course of action, but others on the Iron Hands' ruling Iron Council suspected he had been personally motivated to betray his allies. In the ensuing two-Terran-century-long investigation of Kristos' conduct known as the Kristosian Conclave, the Iron Hands became divided as the affair ultimately transformed into an examination of the Chapter's entire philosophy. Kristos formed a bloc of allies within the Iron Hands who became known as the "Kristosians." After word of sightings that the Chaos Lord known as the Sapphire King and his Emperor's Children warband were active in the Gaudinia System, a now-ancient Kristos swiftly led Clan Raukaan on the attack, ignoring pleas by other Iron Hands commanders to exercise caution. When Kristos landed on Gaudinia Prime, he encountered a vast factory-complex where billions of Imperial citizens had become fused with machines through the power of Chaos. Believing that this hideous monstrosity was the representation of ultimate perfection and machine efficiency, Kristos became corrupted by Slaanesh in that instant and was fused with the mass of flesh and machinery. The Kristosians soon followed, and the Gaudinian Heresy erupted from within the ranks of the Iron Hands. Kristos himself was transformed into a hideous bulging mass of flesh and metal, and was slain following the death of the Sapphire King in 460.M41.
- Deathwatch: First Founding (RPG), pg. 9
- Deathwatch: The Outer Reach (RPG), pp. 20-21
- Index Astartes III, "Hand of Justice - The Iron Hands Space Marine Chapter"
- The Horus Heresy - Book Two: Massacre, pp. 185, 231, 237
- The Horus Heresy - Book Four: Conquest, pp. 55, 157
- The Horus Heresy - Book Six: Retribution (Forthcoming)
- Warhammer 40,000: Clan Raukaan - A Codex: Space Marines Supplement (7th Edition), pp. 10-11, 13, 15-16
- Warhammer 40,000: Death from the Skies (7th Edition), pg. 77
- White Dwarf 291 (US), "Cult of the Machine God: Techmarines of the Adeptus Astartes", pp. 14-17
- White Dwarf 290 (US), "The Flesh Is Weak"
- White Dwarf 263 (AUS), "Index Astartes – Iron Hands"
- White Dwarf 262 (US), "Index Astartes First Founding: Hand of Justice, The Iron Hands Space Marine Chapter"
- Innocence Proves Nothing (Novel) by Sandy Mitchell
- Iron Hands (Novel) by Jonathan Green
- Fulgrim (Novel) by Graham McNeill
- Mechanicum (Novel) by Graham McNeill
- Wrath of Iron (Novel) by Chris Wraight
- Forge World - Legiones Astartes: Iron Hands - Iron Father
- Clan Raukaan - A Codex: Space Marines Supplement (6th Edition), "The Gaudinian Heresy"
- The Voice of Mars (Novel) by David Guymer