An Iron Priest is a unique specialist officer within the Space Wolves Space Marine Chapter. Iron Priests essentially serve in the same capacity for the Space Wolves as the Techmarines of other Codex Astartes-compliant Chapters.
The Iron Priests look after the many technical systems within the Space Wolves' fortress-monastery of The Fang, supervising engineering projects and all the other complex technical tasks undertaken every day by the Astartes of Fenris. The skills of these grim and taciturn artisans are both respected and feared by their fellow Space Wolves, most of whom view advanced technology and the mechanical arts as a dark and frighteningly arcane science.
The role of Iron Priest harkens back to the bygone era of the Great Crusade in the last two centuries of the 30th Millennium. They were one of several subdivisions within the Priests of Fenris, the interconnected Orders which provided for the physical, spiritual and technological needs of the VI Legion. Occluded to outsiders beneath webs of what outwardly seemed superstition and barbarism, they were more than technicians and specialists, but instead the repositories of the Legion's true history, the keepers of its secrets and the masters of its lore. There were several divisions of particular prominence, with the Priests of Iron being one of them. They were the masters of the armouries, war machines and technological arcana of the Space Wolves Legion. The Priests of Iron masked vast technological lore behind an outwardly barbaric show of tech-mysticism whose temper -- if not form -- would do justice to the most obtusely arcane Adept of Mars. Their role was not simply to supply their Legion with arms and maintain their wargear, but to ensure it was as self-sufficient as possible. They also stood guard over certain troves of weaponry and schematic patterns gifted by Terra and uniquely developed by the Iron Priests themselves.
The Iron Priests are masters of the forge, Armoury, war engines and the Machine Spirits, and it is their job to maintain all the advanced weapons and technology of the Space Wolves. Their expertise lies with technical matters and their role is akin to that of Techmarines in other Chapters. Like Techmarines they spend several years with the Tech-priests of the Adeptus Mechanicus of Mars where they learn the innermost secrets of arcane mechanics. It is the Iron Priests who forge each blade and bless each Bolter, and it is they who appease the spirits of plasma and flame. They belong to a brotherhood older than the Chapter itself. Without Iron Priests, the Sons of Russ would be reduced to wearing plated mail instead of powered suits of armour. Without Iron Priests to maintain the Chapter's spacecraft they would be unable to take to the star-sea. Without them, The Aett would crumble, and the Chapter itself would die.
Amongst the native tribes of Fenris, there are those who serve as each tribe's smith. It is these masters of the forge who worship the Gods of Iron, legendary figures said to reside within the volcanic islands adrift in the Boiling Sea. Fenrisian legends say that these gods have molten metal that runs through their veins, that fire dances at their command and that they in turn worship at the altar of the brazen god of technology. Those smiths that are particularly gifted may make the lonely pilgrimage to the smoke-shrouded Isles of Iron, determined to see these gods with their own eyes. Those with the wit and strength to complete the arduous journey do indeed meet with these living gods, for this is the guise that is maintained by the Iron Priests when dealing with mortal men.
Immediately, these prospective candidates are put to work in the scalding and blistering heat of the lava forges, labouring to create the finest swords within the mouth of the volcano. They are forced to wear bulky iron gloves over their dexterous hands, their muscles screaming with exertion as they attempt to transform the crude metal around them into deadly tools of war. This is known as the Test of the Iron Gauntlet. If the pilgrim's work still proves to be of a masterful standard, and should he pass the arduous tests laid before him, then he may be taken on as an apprentice and initiated into the Space Wolves. Later he will journey to the forges of Mars, where he will learn the ways of the machine under the tutelage of the arcane and insular Adeptus Mechanicus. Only once he has fully embraced the mysteries of the Omnissiah will he be allowed to return to Fenris and take his rightful place amongst the Iron Priests, bringing growling engines of war to life in the service of his fellow wolf-brothers.
But for every Aspirant that succeeds in the Test of the Iron Gauntlet, a hundred will fail. Such unfortunate creatures will be taken into the dungeons of The Fang and transformed into a creature known as a Thrall-Servitor, a grotesque fusion of man and machine. Bound to the will of the Iron Priests, they know neither fear nor courage, and their bodies are cut open and rebuilt to fulfill one task and one task alone. In status they reside even lower than the bionic Cyberwolves that the Iron Priests create to accompany them in battle, for a failed Aspirant has committed the unforgivable sin of wasting the time of the Gods of Iron. In efficacy alone they can atone for their failures. Rebuilt either to aid the Iron Priests in battlefield repairs or to serve as living weapons, a Thrall-Servitor will eventually repay his debt to the Iron Priest he has failed, perhaps even earning himself a glorious death in the process.
Given their role as wards of the arcane technology of the Space Wolves, it is a rare thing indeed for an Iron Priest to take the Apocryphon Oath, and serve a Vigil of the Long Watch with the Deathwatch, the Chamber Militant of the Ordo Xenos. When they do choose this path, it is often early in their careers, in order that they might compile knowledge of the numerous technological advances available only to the Deathwatch, for their resources of available technology exceed those of any traditional Chapter. The wargear in a Watch Fortress' Armoury has many sources: equipment specialised to the purpose of fighting xenos forged by the Deathwatch’s own Artificers, tithes from the Chapters sworn to the Deathwatch, Inquisitorial support, caches of rare weapons and even xenos technology captured during the Deathwatch's thousands of years at war with the alien. In accepting an Iron Priest into his Watch Fortress, a Watch Commander gains the services of an individual of unique skill and ability. The efficacy of an Iron Priest in conjuring the tools of war is a great asset to the Deathwatch. His superior knowledge of both the techno-arcane and the performance of their duties as forge master are invaluable.
- Artificer Armour
- Servo-arm - Servo-arms are powerful manipulators tipped with crushing pincers, useful for field repairs and punishing enemies. Ports for these detachable appendages are installed at the shoulder, and the Battle-Brother’s armour must also be upgraded with more powerful gyro-stabilisers to use one effectively. A Servo-arm can lift one side of a Rhino APC to repair a broken tread link. A Servo-arm can extend up to 1.5 metres. The limb’s gripping mandibles allow the Techmarine to lift heavy objects or anchor himself in an emergency. Astartes Servo-arms are more than just repair tools and can make deadly weapons. Iron Priests can use this powerful tool to crush the skulls of those enemies that come too close.
- Omnissian Power Axe (Astartes Pattern) - Often carried by Techmarines to show their devotion to the Omnissiah, this weapon has a long, staff-like body tipped with half of the circular Cog Mechanicum icon. The symbol forms a blade and is sheathed in a power field. Arcs of energy illuminate the ridged blade and light the skull’s eyes with a hungry glow, leaving little doubt that—even while covered with inscribed circuitry indicating its sacred nature—this religious icon is also a deadly weapon in a Space Marine’s powerful hands. The Ommnisian Axe also functions as a combi-tool.
- Thunder Hammer - Iron Priests often go into battle with formidable melee weapons known as Thunder Hammers. These weapons release a terrific burst of gravitic energy when they strike an opponent, and their concussive impact is as loud as a thunderclap, from which the weapon's name originates. Enemies that survive the pulverising blow are likely to be incapacitated by the shockwave that follows. Many Battle-Brothers balance the clumsy nature of attempting to parry with a Thunder Hammer by pairing it with a Storm Shield.
- Fenrisian Cyberwolves - Although it is less common for an Iron Priest to bind with a pack of semi-sentient Fenrisian Wolves than other prominent Space Wolves, there are some amongst the Iron Priesthood who value the company of the great beasts. True to their dual nature as both Space Wolves and servants of the Omnissiah, an Iron Priest so adopted often outfits his animal companions with specifically-crafted bionics and other cybernetic enhancements.
Notable Iron Priests
- Rorik - A senior member of the Chapter's Iron Priests, Rorik served as an advisor to the Great Wolf Logan Grimnar.
- Jurgen - Iron Priest currently serving with Ragnar Blackmane's Great Company.
- Ulf Blackbrow - At the Battle of Rust World, the Rune Priest Njal Stormcaller saved the life of Iron Priest Ulf Blackbrow from the jaws of Morkai with a deadly accurate axe throw. The great blacksmith, a fierce man who did not like to owe anything to anyone, repaid the debt by forging for Njal the psyber-raven Nightwing that has saved Njal's life more than once, pecking out the eyes of those enemies that dare attack his master.
- Harl Greyweaver - Iron Priest and Forge Master of Watch Fortress Erioch. He is currently seconded to the Deathwatch, the Chamber Militant of the Ordo Xenos.
- Garjek Arfang - Iron Priest who served in the 12th Great Company during the 32nd Millennium.
- Berensson Gassijk Rendmar - Senior Iron Priest of the Chapter during the 32nd Millennium.
Iron Priests Iconography
While on active duty, the Iron Priests either bear the symbol of the Great Wolf's company, or of the Wolf Lord to whom they have been assigned. In place of their pack marking an Iron Priest is expected to bear the device of the Adeptus Mechanicus. The individualistic nature of the Space Wolves, however, leads many to personalise that symbol with some Fenrisian icon.
- Codex: Space Wolves (5th Edition), pp. 38, 61-62
- Codex: Space Wolves (3rd Edition), p. 9
- Codex: Space Wolves (2nd Edition), pp. 13-14, 37
- Companies of Fenris - Space Wolves Painting Guide (6th Edition), pg. 37
- Deathwatch: Core Rulebook (RPG), pp. 155, 177
- The Horus Heresy - Book Seven: Inferno by Alan Bligh (Forge World Series), pp. 84, 235
- Lone Wolves (Graphic Novel) by Dan Abnett and Karl Richardson, graphic design by Darius Hinks
- White Dwarf 291 (US), "Cult of the Machine God: Techmarines of the Adeptus Astartes", pp. 14-17