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"By the mysteries of the crucible are they given form and strength. By the molten fires and pounding pistons of the Forge are they armed and armoured. By the Votann and by the Fane are they given wisdom and purpose. And by the searing wrath of the Hearth are they filled with the fury to overcome any foe."

—The "Four Pillars" that maintain the society of a Kindred in the Leagues of Votann

The Leagues of Votann are the collective confederations of the species of squat but powerfully-built Abhuman clones who refer to themselves as the "Kin." They are sometimes pejoratively called "Squats" by the Humans of the Imperium. The Kin are an advanced, starfaring race who possess highly advanced technology and live amid the extreme environments that mark the resource-rich worlds of the galactic core. The Kin share their lives with self-aware, robotic constructs called Ironkin, which they treat as full societal equals in every way.

The Kin have sometimes been misidentified by Humans and xenos species alike as different Abhuman or alien species than their true identity. For instance, the Kin have been mistakenly known to both the T'au and Humans as the "Demiurg," to the Aeldari as the "Heliosi Ancients," and to various other peoples as the "Gnostari," the "Grome" or the "Kreg," among others.

The Kin vary in their classification by the Imperium between a sanctioned Abhuman sub-species of Humanity or a xenos species. However, the Kin's earliest surviving records do establish an ancient link between their Ancestors who settled the galactic core and the sublight, generational Long March mining fleets sent out by pre-Imperial Old Earth, thus making the Abhuman designation the correct one. For their part, the Kin care little what others think of them.

Each of the Leagues of Votann are divided up into groupings similar to clans or nation-states known as "Kindreds," and are ultimately led by a self-aware machine intelligence called a Votann or "Ancestor Core." The Votann are treated as objects of near-worship by the Kin, and when they die, each Kin and Ironkin has their cerebral data uploaded into their Kindred's Votann, a semi-mystical practice referred to as "returning to the Ancestors."

Few intelligent species in the galaxy are as redoubtable, courageous or determined as the Kin who comprise the Leagues of Votann. Nor are many as ruthless when it comes to the risk-and-reward calculus of war. To face them in battle is to stand before an armoured avalanche that crushes all in its path. It is to be appraised and then brusquely dealt with by attackers who see any foe as little more than an obstruction, or else as a hated nemesis whose annihilation is worth any cost.

To those they fight alongside or trade with, the Kin are invaluable allies. However, those they deem a risk to their people's survival they destroy with the same relentless rigour that the Kin apply to harvesting black hole accretion discs, manufacturing their incredible technologies or, indeed, anything else they set their minds to.

The Leagues of Votann are huge and formidable stellar empires, united by a shared history, genetic kinship and culture. As the emergence of the Great Rift sends ripples of upheaval through the galactic core and beyond, they are coming into violent collision with the other starfaring races more than ever before.

History

"There's three things that matter in this galaxy: family; duty; Hearth. Every Kin lives by this code and anyone who gets in the way, well, they can die by it just as easily."

Kâhl Annôkh of the Starbreaker Kindred
LeaguesofVotannSquat

A Kin Hearthkyn trooper of the Leagues of Votann in his void armour suit and wielding an Etacarn Plasma Pistol.

For thousands of Terran years the Leagues of Votann have exploited the riches of the galactic core and overcome the perils of that tumultuous region. Over the millennia they have battled many of the galaxy's starfaring species, and sometimes traded with or fought as mercenaries for others. Now, as the galaxy convulses in the grip of the Great Rift in the Era Indomitus, they face new challenges, and new wars.

The Kin are squat, powerfully-built humanoids. They dwell in vast numbers within the galactic core, being not so populous as the teeming Humans, but far better established than the nascent T'au or dwindling Aeldari. They are a clone species; each generation of new Kin emerges from artificial womb machines known as "crucibles," which draw upon vast banks of genomic data to produce a stable and varied populace. Their numbers are further augmented by the Ironkin, self-aware, machine intelligences clad in mechanical bodies that are dedicated to aiding their flesh-and-blood fellows. To the Kin, the Ironkin are equal and valuable members of their star-faring society, both in times of peace and war.

Few species in the galaxy can match the Kin for resilience of body, mind and spirit. They are indefatigable, but also highly conservative. It takes a great deal to change their minds once their course is set, and those not of their species stand little chance of doing so. This makes the Kin implacable enemies. It also makes them valuable allies, but securing their aid is no easy matter. The Kin look to their own familial duties and obligations first, and ultimately to the survival of their people. If they deem the motivations of others to go against these particular interests, then they are more likely to become foes than friends.

As a people whose earliest origins lie aboard void-borne mining fleets, the Kin have an unforgiving moral code. A filter changed late; a weak seam missed; a water tank left leaking: these and a million other minor lapses can spell disaster when voyaging through the inimical void. Equally, to overlook valuable resources locked away within a stellar body, asteroid field or particulate belt can leave a voidship without the raw materials required to effect repairs or to fuel systems.

When waste, laziness or even simple error can spell death for all aboard, these become the worst of sins. From painful experience has emerged the rugged survivalist culture of the Kin, who find strength and unity in the endless quest to acquire the resources their Kindreds need to endure. It is this apparent acquisitiveness that has caused many other intelligent species to judge the Kin -- often harshly -- as selfish hoarders.

Origins

"Votann set us amidst the heavens. The Ancestors mastered the void. The darkness between the stars holds no terror for us, for we are as much at home in the vacuum of space as we are with our boots firm upon planetary bedrock."

Grimnyr Yôtunn, before the departure of Tarvemm's Prospect

First Ancestors

FacesoftheKin

The many faces of the Kin of the Leagues of Votann.

It is possible that the Ancestor Cores retain records of all Kin history since their earliest days. If such information survives, however, it is likely buried beyond recovery. Accordingly, even the perennially thorough and practical Kin have been forced to accept that -- after a certain point -- their ancient histories blur into myth and legend.

The Leagues of Votann are named in honour of Votann itself, who is also known variously as the "Primal Ancestor," the "Gilded One" or the "Stonemind," amongst others. In some Kin myths, Votann was not one being but many, and is sometimes depicted as a group of gleaming golden figures or a wheel of graven stone faces. In other myths, Votann fashioned the first crucibles, then raised the Kin up and sent them sailing into the dark void -- before oceans of fire and flesh rose to swallow them. Some myths speak of Votann as the eldest and wisest of the First Ancestors, themselves little more than ill-defined, shadowy presences and shown in many different forms in Kin depictions -- both humanoid and otherwise -- where they are depicted at all.

With typical pragmatism, the Kin accept that their myths are too contradictory, allegorical and suspect to be cited as possessing a definite basis in fact. None of this troubles them overly. Steeped as they are in tradition and dour realism, the Kin feel less need than Humans to don the armour of faith. They are not frightened by the inexplicable.

Instead, they accept reality as they see it to be; if there are matters in their ancient past of which they have no understanding then -- unless those matters suddenly become relevant to their present -- the Kin set them aside. Of course, many of the Grimnyr continue to interface with the Ancestor Cores in the hopes of asking the right questions to unlock portions of their ancient history. Most do this more out of simple curiosity and a desire for completeness, however, rather than being motivated by some existential need.

For all this, there are certain articles of lost history that all Kin deem indisputable fact. They call these the "First Truths." It is a First Truth that their earliest Ancestors departed the Kin homeworld -- almost certainly pre-Imperial Terra during the Age of Technology -- millennia ago aboard fleets of sublight, interstellar generation ships known as Long March vessels.

It is a First Truth that the Kin were a cloned people from the beginning, and that the robotic Ironkin have been with them since those earliest days. It is a First Truth, also, that the Ancestors of the Kin set out as miners, prospectors and void-dredgers, charged with exploiting the riches of the heavens.

Kin myth blends into recorded history around the time their Long March fleets were approaching the galactic core. Why they did not return to the heartlands of Humanity's civilisation at that time is unclear. From the fact that so many Kin fleets plunged into the galactic core within a period of only a few Terran centuries, it might be inferred that a deliberate choice was made.

Cloneskeins

KinDiversity

A look at Kin phenotypical diversity in the Leagues of Votann.

It is during this period that the last references to the First Ancestors can be found, often blurring with -- or transitioning into -- mentions of the Ancestor Cores. These are themselves also referred to collectively as "The Votann," with the Kin employing the two terms interchangeably. The First Ancestors are cited here as agents of change, and held responsible for the majority of the stable mutations and phenotypical expressions -- collectively known as "cloneskeins" -- that run through the Kin gene pool. This pool appears to have been broad, deep and varied from the first, putting the lie to simplistic notions of a cloned race all being literally identical copies.

The Votann are also thought to have hardened the Kin both physically and spiritually. Some accounts claim this was in response to a perceived threat, others that it was done to ready the Kin for inhabiting their harsh new home region in the galactic core. In practical terms, the introduction of the cloneskeins gave the baseline Kin denser musculature, tougher bone structures, higher red and white cell counts for more efficient physiologies that are resistant to hard radiation, exceptional core physical strength and formidable physical resilience compared to baseline Humans.

More esoteric -- but no less evident -- are the changes worked on the Kin spirit and psyche, which cause their souls to shine far more dimly amidst the tides of the Warp than those of Humans. The Kin evidence no uncontrolled psychic mutation, and only those with the appropriate psychoactive cloneskein can activate the so-called "barrier-tech" that allows psychically-active Kin to interact with the Empyrean.

It is rare indeed that Kin fall victim to physical mutation, Daemonic possession or the temptations of Chaos. Hostile psychic abilities struggle to find purchase upon them. It has been suggested by some outside observers that this very hardening of the soul led the Kin to become ever more obstinate and conservative in cultural character. If this is so, then it is just one side of a metaphysical feedback loop that has benefited their race greatly across the millennia.

Beyond these benefits available to all Kin, there are many cloneskeins that impart additional useful physical abilities upon Kin who possess them. From enhanced reaction times and vision that registers infra-red or other energistic spectra, to limited resistance to extremes of temperature, gravity or strains of ionising cosmic radiation, the list goes on. The cloneskeins undeniably aided the Kin in enduring the extreme environments of the galactic core.

Many cloneskeins manifest physically, whether it be unusually coloured eyes or skin, craggy subdermal layers, chemical body odours or various other giveaways. To Humanity, such physical abnormalities would surely be cause for prejudice and mistreatment. To the Kin, they are rather badges of valuable ability, either bequeathed by the ineffable Ancestor Cores or encouraged by the Cloners' Guilds during gestation.

Obscure legend gives way entirely to historical record during the following centuries, as scattered Kin fleets settled new worlds, established trade routes and became the first of the Leagues of Votann.

Kindreds, Holds and Leagues

LeaguesofVotannCity

A Kin city on a Kindred's Hold World in the galactic core.

All Kin -- barring only rare outcasts -- belong to a group known as a "Kindred." These are groupings somewhere in size and complexity between extended families or clans and close-knit, genetically related, interstellar nation-states. They vary in size from a few dozen Kin up to many thousands, or even millions! All Kin in a Kindred are clones who have sprung from its artificial wombs or "crucibles," and thus share a genetic bond stronger than allegiance to any flag. They usually live, train and toil within their Kindred's home fortress or "hold," when not abroad amongst the stars for trade, scouting, mineral prospecting or war.

The Kin habitually load apparently simple terms such as "hold" with nuanced meaning, being disinclined to even waste words. Thus, while the term is used throughout the Leagues of Votann, it can refer to wildly different structures and locations. Some holds are fusions of fortification, city, industrial complex and strip mine, the largest of which may sprawl across -- or honeycomb beneath -- much of a so-called "Hold World"'s surface. Others may be heavily armed void stations, chains of domes scattered through asteroid belts, nomadic harvesting fleets, mobile matter-energy syphoning plants riding the fringes of black holes to harvest their accretion discs, or even stranger marvels of advanced technology.

A Kindred can be a commanding force. Its hold may boast bustling cityscapes, industrial and military powerhouses, and many massive voidships. Yet greater still are the alliances or confederations of several Kindreds known as "leagues." Nearly all Kindreds are part of one or another league, proudly displaying their colours and emblems while sharing trade, military support, Guild tariffs and so on.

Many of the Leagues of Votann have existed for millennia. The Greater Thurian League, the Ymyr Conglomerate, the Urani-Surtr Regulates, the Typhon-Styx Protectorate and others are established and ancient Kin power blocs. Some, such as the ill-fated Kapellan League, have declined over the centuries, while others -- like the Kronus Hegemony or the Seran-Tok Mercantile Leagues -- are more recently established.

At the heart of every Kin league lies at least one Votann, also known as Ancestor Cores. The Kin believe these venerable, artificially intelligent thinking machines were created in a lost age of myth, and departed their homeworld aboard the first Kin mining fleets. The Votann were sent into the void alongside the Kin to provide them with all the wisdom and aid they would require. The nodes through which that wisdom flowed have now become the "Fanes" that lie within all Kindred holds.

The Votann are of incalculable value and importance to the Kin. The passage of Terran millennia have wrought strange changes in these machine intelligences, rendering them ponderous and senescent, yet they remain all-knowing repositories of lore and treasured links to the Ancestors of untold centuries. Those Kin who can commune with the Votann are known as the Grimnyr, or sometimes "Living Ancestors," and are universally respected.

Living and Working in the Core

KInandCOG

A Kin in his void armour accompanied by a robotic COG assistant to aid him in his tasks.

Terran millennia have passed since the very first holds were established in the galactic core. The Kin have been content to remain largely within the bounds of that strange region of the galaxy, which has long daunted many other starfaring races. Powers such as the Imperium's Adeptus Mechanicus, the Aeldari and the worshippers of Chaos have forged inroads into the core, of course. Some sought the incredible riches generated by the region's stellar nurseries and other cosmic phenomena.

Others hoped to hide amidst its turbulent gravitic anomalies or to investigate the dense asteroid clusters flung out from the accretion discs around the supermassive black hole that lay at the galaxy's heart. Yet the core is a forge for stars, an immense swathe of Wild Space within which the fundamental physical forces of the universe rage. Many are the blasted ruins and the drifting void-hulks that form the headstones of those who sought sanctuary or fortune there.

Such was not to be the fate of the Kin, however. Boasting physiologies and technologies seemingly tailored for survival in this perilous region of space, they prospered where others failed. Their Cthonian Mining Guilds were the hardiest of all, and it was these organisations' heavily augmented and suicidally courageous individuals who delved swiftest and deepest. By the bloody light of red giants their space-borne particle excavators disassembled newborn stars from the inside out, then employed their bountiful fusion harvest to refine fundamental elements undreamt of by other intelligent species to fuel their burgeoning interstellar industry.

Kindred voidships sliced whole planets apart, then deployed external refinery-rigs on kilometres-long umbilici to reap the molten harvest. Cosmic radiation and particulate belts that had been old when the War in Heaven was fought between the Old Ones and the C'tan were drawn into immense plasma-conductors or caught in atomic scoops, then transmuted into the materials the Kin required to survive.

One by one, the leagues formed. Trade routes bridged void-straits battered by searing stellar winds, or saw merchant craft ply back and forth between the galactic core's outer Circumnuclear Disc and the ominous dead zone that encircled its heart. More and greater holds were raised upon worlds where night never fell due to the sheer stellar density in the skies above.

Life in the core was hard, but the rewards were plentiful and the Kin saw clearly the benefits of thriving in a region of space where competitor species could not. Thus, as the Terran millennia passed, the Leagues of Votann continued to focus upon settling the immense sprawl of the core and exploiting its boundless material riches.

Beyond the Core

None of this is to say that the Kin never ventured out into the wider galaxy. The boldest amongst them were driven to prospect beyond the galactic core, or to establish trade with starfaring species other than their own. More than this, there is a prevailing belief within Kin culture that, in order to truly honour the Ancestors, one must live a full life and discover or learn all that one can.

This was reason enough to see countless Kin exploratory and prospecting fleets -- commonly called "Prospects" -- set out into the wider galaxy. It also compelled bands of Kin to leave their people and to fight as mercenaries in the wars of other intelligent species, returning only when they had gathered knowledge and experience fit to offer to the Votann.

Between these Prospect expeditions -- and contact with alien races also able to endure the galactic core -- the Leagues of Votann have encountered all of the galaxy's great powers in one context or another. However, in many cases these contacts were isolated to a single fleet, conflict or trade agreement. The Kin remain close-mouthed around outsiders, seeing no reason to reveal the full extent of their holdings in the galactic core, or risk revealing the existence of the Votann.

Many peoples they came into contact with thus mistook a single Kindred or league for the entirety of some comparatively minor alien species. In Imperial records it is impossible to say how many itinerant nomad races, unclassified xenos trade fleets or so-called "Abhuman" enclaves have actually been the Kin.

Where they have been identified consistently, the Kin are typically known to the Imperium by the rather pejorative term "Squats," and vary in their classification between Abhuman and true xenos. The Kin have been mistakenly known to the T'au and Humans alike as the "Demiurg," to the Aeldari as the "Heliosi Ancients," and to various other starfaring species as the Gnostari, the Grome or the Kreg, amongst others.

The Kin bear all this with a mixture of contempt and amusement. Their own, most ancient surviving records do much to confirm a link between the Ancestors and the ancient civilisation of pre-Imperial Old Earth, but to the Kin this only encourages even greater care in their dealings with Humanity. The Leagues decided long ago that neither the God-Emperor nor the Omnissiah were any deity of theirs. As such, they see anything that might offer the Imperium a greater claim to impose its will upon them as something to be avoided.

Alongside exploration, trade and prospecting, the Kin have also fought countless wars. A disproportionate number of these campaigns have been waged against the Orks, who remain the Kin's most hated and frequent foes. The Greenskins' crude but hardy civilisations flourish as well in the galactic core as they do everywhere else, while their anarchic, destructive nature is anathema to everything the Kin value. It is a combination that has seen mutual aggression rage between the two species many times. The Kin have scarcely more time for the mortal worshippers of the Dark Gods, who they view with a mixture of disgust and bewilderment.

The Kin also dislike the Necrons, against whom they have fought numerous times -- when their excavations disturb subterranean stasis tomb complexes or ancient Necron Dynasties return from the Great Sleep to reclaim worlds settled by the Kin.

The Tyranids, meanwhile, are known throughout the Leagues of Votann simply as "The Bane," and are afforded the wary respect one gives to especially intelligent and dangerous predators. This has not prevented some Kindreds from actively stalking Tyranid splinter fleets, striking at isolated Hive Ships in order to harvest their resource-rich bounty of biomatter.

For their part, Humanity has been the enemy of the Leagues as often as their allies. Inquisitors and intolerant Space Marines are quick to name the Kin as xenos and demand their slaughter. The Adeptus Mechanicus are viewed by the Kin as superstitious tech-shamans, whose acquisitive yet deliberate ignorance about the true nature of science and technology makes them dangerous, and who are to be swiftly eliminated where they cannot be avoided.

With the Aeldari, the T'au and a number of other starfaring alien species, the Kin have maintained semi-cordial relations and achieved sporadic trade and commerce. Exceptions have still arisen, of course; the Kin have little patience for the gruesome excesses of the Drukhari, or what they see as the arrogance of the Asuryani, and of late have clashed around the fringes of the Chalnath Expanse with the dynamic T'au Empire.

Kin Anatomy and Physiology

KinDifferences

A look at the phenotypical diversity found among the Kin of the Leagues of Votann.

The Kin are a short, squat, physically powerful race of Abhumans descended originally from the Humans of pre-Imperial Terra. They stand approximately 4 feet (1.4 metres) tall, yet possess such dense muscular and skeletal systems that they could nearly match a Space Marine in raw physical power. They are a race of clones, with the entire population of each Kindred sharing the same basic genetic code. Every Kin is gestated and born under the watchful eye of the Votann from mechanical wombs known as "crucibles."

Yet, this does not mean that each Kin is exactly physically identical or that the Kin suffer from the defects which can result from a lack of genetic diversity. The First Ancestors who were responsible many Terran millennia ago for shaping Kin society to deal with the environmental rigours of life in the galactic core engineered a series of stable mutations and unusual phenotypical expressions into their people's genomes which they named "cloneskeins."

In practical terms, these alterations provide the Kin with physiological enhancements over the Human baseline such as denser muscular and skeletal systems to provide greater physical strength and more endurance in the face of trauma. Their bodies are capable of higher red and white blood cell production to ensure the Kin possess more efficient respiratory systems that enhance their capacity for rigorous work and an immune system that is more effective at combating the effects of ionising radiation common to the galactic core.

There are many cloneskeins that were intended to provide specific physical benefits to those Kin that possess them. These include enhanced reaction times beyond those available to baseline Kin, the ability to see into the infrared and other electromagnetic spectra beyond visible light, increased resistance to extremes of temperature, gravity or ionising radiation, and many other enhancements that aid navigating the turbulent environments of the core.

Such genetic alterations also manifest in the phenotypes of those Kin who bear them, again giving the lie to the idea that just because the Kin are all clones, they are also all identical. Such expressions include an unusual colour of the skin or eyes by Human standards, altered subdermal layers displaying various craggy surfaces or ridges on the cranium or elsewhere on the body, unusual odours and similar cosmetic changes. These differences do not breed prejudice or other forms of discrimination among the Kin, who view them as the marks of valuable abilities and enhancements to the capability of the Kin to work or defend themselves that they were intended to be.

Alterations were also made to the Kin's mental acuity and psyches through unknown means, such that they are far less able to make use of the powers of the Immaterium -- or be affected by its unnatural denizens. The Kin's physical and mental hardening has made them much less prone to the physical mutations brought on by exposure to the energies of Chaos, and possession by Daemons or a Kin's corruption by Chaos are also blessedly extremely rare.

The Kin even seem to be highly resistant to the exercise of any powers upon them that draw upon the energies of the Warp. The downside, or some might claim the advantage, of this psychic hardening is the lack of true psykers among the Kin, for whom that mutation simply does not exist. Additionally, such psychic alterations also seem to have contributed to the conservative, stoic and deeply stubborn nature of most Kin.

In place of the psyker mutation, the First Ancestors provided the Kin with a specialised cloneskein that expresses itself among the Grimnyr, the Living Ancestors who serve as the Kin's primary link with the wisdom of the Votann and are the closest analogue that these highly secular people have to priests. These bearers of the psychoactive cloneskein are the only ones able to activate the advanced barrier technologies that the Leagues do possess to allow limited interactions with the Warp.

Kin Society

UraniSurtrBrokhyrThunderkyn

A Brôkhyr Thunderkyn of the Urani-Surtr Regulates brings his SP Conversion Beamer to bear against the foe.

Traditionalist as they are, the Kin hold true to core societal structures and ideals no matter which Kindred or league they belong to. The Kindreds, the Guilds and the Leagues of Votann form the foundations upon which the Kin build their society, and also the venerable institutions whose survival they fight to ensure.

Four Pillars of a Kindred

The familial bond of the Kindred remains with Kin and Ironkin whether they live and work within their hold, or roam the stars as warriors, merchants, miners or courageous Hernkyn Rangers. There is a shared, genetic understanding between members of a Kindred that goes deeper than words. It is a commonality of thought and action that binds their armies tight and can appear to outsiders like some form of low-level telepathy.

Every Kindred has its own name, chosen when it was founded. Some -- including Skâlfi's Kindred, the Kindred of Nârunn or Vykât's Kin -- are named for the Ancestor credited with their establishment. Others are named after a defining feature of their Hold World, such as the Kindred of Echodark, the Thousand Stars Kindred or the Iron Canyon Kindred. Oddly basic names are used by some, like Kindred Six or Kindred Eleven-D, while others boast names that speak to their essential natures, such as the Star-delver Kindred or the Kindred of Ork Slayers. The Kin are also known to mingle these forms, producing names such as Yôht's Black Pillars Kindred, or The Kindred Stoic of Nightgulf.

Other than its people, the heart of every Kindred lies in its "Four Pillars." The first is "the Hearth" -- the fire that burns at the heart of the hold. Echoing the times when all Kin sailed the stars aboard vast generation ships, the Hearth is the blazing plasma reactor that powers the hold's defences and sustains light and life. Its fires are said to burn within the breast of all its Kin, only extinguished if every last member of a Kindred falls.

The second pillar is "the Forge," wherein the Kindred known as Brôkhyr craft the weapons, equipment, tools, vehicles and technologies required to sustain them. In planet-based holds the Forge may be a conventional -- if vast -- industrial workshop, but in others it may take the form of a huge factory-vessel, a hollowed out industrial asteroid or a grav-anchored factory-station.

The third pillar is "the Fane," tended to by the Living Ancestors. From the Fane flows the wisdom of the Votann, for it is here that the Grimnyr interface with their Kindred's Ancestor Core.

The final pillar is "the Crucible," whose genomic cloning technologies and artificial wombs ensure the Kindred's continuation as a people, and whose ancient devices are defended by the oath-sworn orders of the Embyr.

Every Kindred governs itself from a huge spherical chamber known as the "Spakerönde" located in its primary hold. Here, the "Hearthspake" gathers -- a ruling council of Guildmasters, senior officers of the Kindred's military Kinhost, and wise and cunning Grimnyr. For all their familial bonds as genetically-related clones born from their Kindred's crucibles, the members of the Hearthspake are much given to strident debate and obstinacy. Kin are slow to change their minds. When one believes firmly that he or she knows what is best for their Kindred, they can be remarkably stiff-necked.

Moreover, all are keenly conscious that the Ancestors are always watching. Though voices are often raised and debates may last for solar days, the Hearthspake sees little of the politicking or self-interested manoeuvring that typifies many other intelligent species' political arenas. The Kin might be hard-headed, but they are almost always earnest and honest in their desire to guide their Kindred well.

The Guilds

KinandCOGatwork

A Kin miner and his robotic COG assistant of the Trans-Hyperian Alliance hard at work.

Employment-based civilian organisations known as Guilds spread through Kin society like veins of ore through bedrock. They are uniting bodies made up of all those Kin who perform a particular occupational role or provide a particular service within a region of Kin space. Every Guild is ruled over by its Guildmasters, who set standards for Guild accreditation, expected levels of workmanship and the tithes their members levy. The most prominent Guildmasters also attend their Kindred's governing Hearthspake to give voices to the civilian Kin in their Guilds.

In theory, the Guilds exist apart from any Kindred affiliations. They are meant to be a means by which fair competition is maintained across Kin space without Kindred political loyalties carrying undue weight. In practise, smaller Guilds rarely extend their influence beyond a single hold or Kindred. Moreover, Guild affiliation is a voluntary step that not all Kin take; Guild members look askance at those without a Guild membership who are known as "freelancers," while freelancers in turn despair at those they see as hidebound Guildsmen. Where the larger Guilds do reach across multiple Kindreds, there is no guarantee another enterprising group of Kin won't decide to set up a rival Guild.

Competition can become heated between such bodies. Other starfaring races have been caught in the crossfire as competing Guilds sponsor Oathband expeditions into rich star systems, caring far more about beating their rivals to the punch than about the luckless civilisations already inhabiting contested worlds.

Despite their fractious natures, the Guilds are invaluable to Kin society. They smooth trade, commerce and transit between Kindreds. They provide organisational administration and support throughout the Leagues. From star-mining and gravitic fracking to smoothly-functioning military supply chains, voidcraft repair, the provision and preparation of food and drink, the construction of homes and holds and every other aspect of Kin manufacture and distribution, it all functions better thanks to the Guilds' competition and high standards.

The Leagues

GreaterThurianLeagueKinhost

An Oathband of the Greater Thurian League goes to war, led from the front by a zealous theyn.

The first Leagues of Votann were formed by those Kindreds in direct possession of Ancestor Cores. The leagues were initially only military alliances intended to ensure the precious Votann were protected, and sprang naturally out of the Human Long March mining fleets that had settled the galactic core. Soon enough, the leagues became mutually beneficial, allied bodies comparable in size and culture to star-spanning nations.

Each league possesses sole claim to the ancient heraldic colours and logos of one of the Long March mining fleets. Every Kindred that belongs to a league is thus entitled to display these schemes and sigils in whatever fashion they see fit, providing it is suitably respectful. Over time, the territories claimed by each league within the galactic core have become relatively set, while prevailing cultures, specialisms and outlooks have come to prominence within their member Kindreds.

The many Kindreds of the Greater Thurian League, for example, tend toward the core Kin values of trade and prospecting, and are known and respected for being especially mercenary. Those of the Trans-Hyperian Alliance are renowned as explorers and voyagers, for they possess an almost puritanical drive to enrich the Votann as much as possible -- whether by discovery or military conquest. The Kronus Hegemony and Grendl Dominance are overtly warlike, with the Kindreds of the Kronus Hegemony particularly notorious for their mechanised onslaughts and apparent willingness to declare a Grudge at the least provocation.

The Jotun-Erydani Combine are renowned for their craftsmanship and forging, the Urani-Surtr Regulates have a reputation for incredible stoicism and self-reliance, the Ghulo Industrial Complex are unmatched in the fields of void mining and terraforming, and no league boasts greater or more indomitable fortifications than the Kindreds of the Typhon-Styx Protectorate.

These are but some of the many Leagues of Votann scattered throughout the galactic core. Even the Kin no longer know the full extent or composition of these alliances for -- while it is uncommon due to their conservative natures -- it is not unheard of for Kindreds to leave one league in order to join another.

In addition, some leagues have declined in power and importance until they fragmented, while others have been annihilated wholesale by war or tragedy, or have been cut off by the emergent Warp Storms of the newborn Great Rift. Other leagues have been newly founded, sometimes in far remote territories, or else have been refounded in name by those who wish to honour some ancient league believed long lost.

Ironkin

Ironkin

An Ironkin worker of the Greater Thurian League outfitted with a Las-beam Cutter.

The Ironkin are self-aware robots, machine intelligences who are considered full and equal citizens of the Leagues of Votann by the organic Kin.

The Ironkin were created by -- and to this day are still manufactured by -- the Votann. Ironkin are truly self-aware, sentient machine intelligences. They possess tremendous cogitational power and are able to mimic Kin social behaviors so well that they have integrated fully with their flesh and blood cousins within League society.

Each Ironkin consists of a Cerebral Unit -- or CU -- and a unique, mechanical body. An Ironkin's CU has microfield generators woven into its physical structure, rendering it nigh-invulnerable, while its body is designed to fulfil one of a variety of societal roles, be that a generalist, a strategic advisor, a combat shock trooper among the Hearthkyn, a mining support unit, a cargo lugger, combat pilot or any other role that League society might need.

An Ironkin's body is as personal to it as the flesh-and-blood frame of any organic being. It requires repair when damaged, rather than simply being replaced like that of a non-aware machine. In extremis, however, an Ironkin can survive as its CU alone. Should they be reduced to this condition, they are able to enter a state of torpor or inactivity while projecting an all-frequency distress beacon to any League assets in range.

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An Ironkin Hearthkyn of the Greater Thurian League

The purpose of the Ironkin is to aid the organic Kin in every aspect of their lives, as was common in ancient Human societies long Terran millennia ago. However, the Ironkin are not slaves of their organic brethren like the Men of Iron who rose up during the Cybernetic Revolt, nor are they treated as subservient menials by the Kin. It is simply in their nature to find whatever niche they best fill in League society, and then to perform that role to the best of their abilities.

As such, the Ironkin can only imitate the emotions and drives of their biological fellows. It is thus rare that Ironkin possess any degree of true ambition for themselves, or seek to become leaders among their people. While they may express emotions such as pride, camaraderie, courage, empathy or anger, in truth, these are but facsimilies of such emotions intended to optimise their societal integration with the organic Kin.

In battle, the Ironkin will fight besides the organic Kin as Hearthkyn and will often accompany Brôkhyr Iron-masters as assistants, serving alongside the Kin's non-self-aware COG robots, offering their technical support and entering combat themselves when their organic comrades find themselves in a pinch.

Hernkyn

"No matter how far through the stars I may roam, still I carry the fires of the Hearth in my heart."

—Traditional utterance of the Hernkyn before setting forth on an expedition.
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A Hernkyn seeks to make a deal on behalf of his league.

The Hernkyn are those Kin who serve as the Leagues of Votann's explorers, scouts, prospectors and pioneers. To the Kin, any region of blank space upon their star charts is a mystery in need of solving. The desire to plumb the depths of the void, to discover its secrets and claim its riches is deeply ingrained in their psyche, as is the need to know what -- if any -- sources of peril might lurk amidst the shadows.

The Hernkyn are the furthest travelled of their race. Their sturdy boots have left prints in the aeons-old dust of lost moons. The Hernkyn Pioneers have skimmed across the baking plains and through the carnivorous jungles of worlds never before seen by the Kin. Bands of Hernkyn leave their Kindreds behind for solar decades at a time, forging out into the dark spaces beyond the furthest trade routes, or shining their lights into regions long declared lost or forbidden.

In many galactic cultures, such a wanderer's role might fall to outcasts and loners, and be synonymous with rebellion against confining social structures. By comparison, becoming one of the Hernkyn brings high honour amidst the Leagues of Votann.

By ranging the dark void, the Hernkyn do great service to the Votann. Such a wild and rootless existence leads Hernkyn to see unbelievable sights, uncover ominous galactic secrets and experience countless -- often perilous -- adventures. All of these experiences ensure that, when Hernkyn finally return to their Ancestors, they bring with them swathes of enriching experience.

The Leagues of Votann also benefit greatly from the efforts of the Hernkyn. It is often an intrepid band of these brave scouts that identifies and warns of an impending peril, be it a star preparing to go supernova, a hidden Webway spur employed by Drukhari slave-raiders, an onrushing Ork WAAAGH! or some other unforeseen threat. The Hernkyn also locate potential trading partners for their Kindreds, mark navigable void-channels, scout viable regions for Kindred settlement and -- most important of all -- locate valuable resources to be exploited.

To achieve all this, however, the Hernkyn themselves make great personal sacrifices. It is this that makes them such heroes in the eyes of their fellow Kin. It is not easy for family-focused clones to spend such extended periods of time away from the comfort of their Kindreds and holds. Moreover, there is always the danger that -- if their band is wiped out far from League space -- the Hernkyn may never return to their Ancestors. That these brave scouts are willing to take such risks says much for their character. It also speaks volumes of their race's inbuilt drive to survive no matter the hardships or dangers.

The Hernkyn take pride in the perils of their role as frontiersmen. It is perhaps unsurprising that they are amongst the most rugged and dour of all their people, holding hard to the bonds of loyalty that bind their pioneering bands together, who are all the family they can rely on so far from home.

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Trans-Hyperian Alliance Hernkyn are among the furthest-travelled and most courageous of the Kin.

The Leagues ensure their Hernkyn are as well-equipped as possible to face the dangers inherent to their role. Guild affiliates furnish bands of Hernkyn with the most advanced and redoubtable scout ships in Kindred space, piloted by voidmasters as courageous as they are skilled.

A wide array of armoured gunships and rugged exploration and combat vehicles provide the Hernkyn with transportation the equal of even the most hazardous alien landscapes. Meanwhile, their enviro-hardened void armour suits are supplemented with an impressive arsenal of weaponry -- both Kin-portable and vehicle-mounted -- along with a range of energy field generators, survival gear and pan spectral scanners.

The Kin's pan spectral scanners are useful both in prospecting and combat. They can detect an incredible range of energy spectra not only through solid matter, but even across multidimensional wavelengths, ensuring the Hernkyn are rarely surprised by even the most cunning or esoterically empowered foes. These scanners are equally unlikely to miss the presence of natural resources the Kin would prize. When such rich discoveries are made, Hernkyn mark the location using powerful claim-beacons, whose multispectral energy signatures are bounced back along networks of relay satellites all the way to League space. It is at such times that the Cthonian Mining Guilds rumble into action.

Cthonian Mining Guilds

"This is very simple. We don't want your lives, your coin or that junk you call technology. We want your world. We want the riches you didn't even realise you had, and that you definitely don't deserve. Leave while you have the chance. Or don't. Either way, we're coming to claim what's ours."

—Ultimatum delivered by the Cthonian "Gauntlet" Consortium
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A massive plasma excavator of the Cthonian Mining Guilds reduces entire planetoids to their constituent elements for later use by the Kin.

The Cthonian Mining Guilds, which carry out most of the Leagues of Votann's mining and resource extraction activities, embody the belligerence and acquisitiveness of the Kin. Fearless in the cause of locating, securing and harvesting resources for their race, the Cthonians think nothing of braving environments so extreme that even other Kin would baulk at their hazards.

From violent gravity maelstroms, meteor collision fields, savagely irradiated nebulae and plague-ridden planetoids to sweltering magma caverns, crushing oceanic depths, hypersonic shard-storms, the gnawing fringes of black holes and even nightmarish space hulks adrift on the tides of the Warp, the Kin of the Cthonians take grim pride in braving them all.

This bloody-minded approach extends equally to living or sentient hazards, such as predatory aliens or hostile stellar empires. Included in this category are also many advanced and militarised starfaring civilisations, with what would seem to be entirely legitimate claims to the resources the Cthonians covet. Many Cthonian Mining Guild surveyors think nothing of assessing other species' assets such as plasma storage plants, promethium stockpiles, void-going ore barges and even fully functional industrial infrastructure as simply desirable concentrations of harvestable resources.

Such assets are viewed no differently than veins of precious ore locked away within a rock face, waiting to be claimed. In such cases, trade is often attempted as a first recourse, for war is wasteful. If such measures fail, then violent acquisition is viewed by the Cthonian Guilds as the next logical step. As the Kin Truth has it, "Luck has. Need keeps. Toil earns." In short, they who want something the most, and fight the hardest for it, deserve to possess it. If that is the Kin, then what they claim by conquest is theirs by right.

Not all Kin miners join a Cthonian Guild. There are hundreds of unaffiliated asteroid mines and void-harvesting rigs scattered across League space. However, a substantial majority of Kin miners do choose to acquire Cthonian Guild accreditation, for firmly pragmatic reasons. Most Cthonian Guilds are rich and prestigious enough to operate their own fleets of ruggedly fortified voidships, which give them an edge amidst the fierce competition for the richest claims. Most are also willing to supplement the equipping and surgical, cybernetic augmentation of their members, investing in their future successes.

Most Kin who join the Cthonians are already adapted for hardiness. They possess cloneskeins that imbue them with hyper-dense bone structures, extreme tolerance to harmful radiation, the ability to perceive esoteric energy spectra, vacuum-hardened organs and circulatory systems, and so on.

Added to this, they willingly submit to repeated surgical procedures that augment them with reinforced skull plates, advantageous bionics, artificial organs and other mechanical adaptations to help them endure the most extreme environments. There is a culture of cheerful rivalry amongst Cthonians regarding how heavily adapted and scarred they are, both for and because of their labours. The hardiest amongst them are nicknamed "luggers" -- quite literally those who can carry the most, both in terms of literal and metaphorical burdens.

With typical understatement, the Leagues of Votann refer to most resource harvesting operations as "mining." It is a humble word for such an incredible range of technologically breathtaking operations, undertaken at a colossal scale. Global magna-extraction and tectonic delving topple mountain ranges and shatter worlds as the Kin free the resources they want from the surrounding extraneous planetary structures. Stars grow dim under the attentions of Cthonian stellar syphons. Stellar phenomena that Humanity view with superstitious terror are torn apart and processed by the Kin through methods such as atom-delving and trans-etheric resubstantiation.

Nor do the Cthonians shy away from mining operations in active war zones. Indeed, it is not uncommon for such conflicts to have been triggered by the Cthonian Guilds' own acquisitive efforts. Their ships are capable of deploying temporary defensive structures -- from atmospheric engines dropped from gunships to energy field dome generators and heavily armoured harvester plants -- that the Kin soldiery use to defend their ongoing extraction processes. The Cthonians themselves will gladly fight alongside the Hearthkyn and Hernkyn also, as sappers, combat engineers, indomitable linebreakers or extreme-environment infantry.

Cthonian Beserks, in particular, relish the opportunity to turn their concussion mauls and heavy plasma axes against their foes, smashing, bludgeoning and blasting as they compete to prove themselves the toughest lugger.

The Truths

So conservative is Kin society that -- as a species -- there are certain truisms and idioms that have found universal acceptance amongst them. The Kin call these their "Truths," and treat them as articles of sincere good sense that are loaded with more nuance and meaning than is immediately apparent.

The most common of these is the frequent Kin saying, "The Ancestors are watching," which often doubles as a battle cry. One interpretation of this Truth is that all the generations who have gone before are judging the deeds of the living Kin, who must strive their hardest to live up to those who came before. Yet equally, this Truth can remind the Kin that their Ancestors live on in every new generation, and that they are never alone while their forebears stand with them.

There are many other Truths, from describing worthless objects or foolish schemes as "a prize for an Ork," to encompassing the depth of their race's space-faring prowess in the simple statement, "The void is in our veins."

Like the Kin themselves, to outsiders the Truths seem uncomplicated and direct, yet in reality they are far more complex and nuanced.

"First Truths" are those Truths that all Kin believe about their own history and origins. For example, a First Truth is that the Kin were a clone society from the very beginning.

Notable Truths

The Kin's Truths are an expression of the conservative common sense that defines the culture of the Leagues of Votann. Some of the most common Truths and their meanings are defined below.

  • "Sailing to Far-space" - This expression describes an endeavour, strategic manoeuvre or the like which appears foolhardy, as Far-space -- anywhere outside of the primary League territories in the galactic core -- is considered risky and unwise to stray into without good cause.
  • "Their Hearth burns" - Referencing the Hearth -- the power source that blazes at the heart of every Kin hold -- this expression implies that an individual has become especially impassioned or angry, or else shows an unquenchable energy or drive towards a particular goal.
  • "It's Kin" - An expression used to indicate something is of or belonging to the Kin as a race, and therefore inherently durable and reliable.
  • "As true as wrought" - The Kin use this expression for anything so incontrovertibly true that to question it is considered insulting and foolish. It may be applied to oaths, battle plans or any wisdom derived from the Votann, amongst other things.
  • "The Ancestors are watching." - This idiom is both a reminder that Kin must always live up to their Ancestors' expectations, and also a reassurance that the Ancestors live on in the families of the Kin. It can be used as a battlecry, a warning or a blessing.
  • "The void is in our veins." - An expression that simply means that the Kin have been starfarers since their earliest days; this expression also carries a strong implication that they are the most skilled in this theatre.
  • "Luck has. Need keeps. Toil earns." - This expression asserts that those who work hardest to attain something, and can prove greatest need of it, deserve to have it regardless of the cost to those who lose it. See also, "By merit of need."
  • "Waste feeds the void." - Personifying the inimical environment of space as a hungry predator, this Truth expresses the idea that wastefulness, idleness or oversight is likely to feed the crew of a Kin voidship to this ravenous beast. It can be applied to almost any situation in Kin society, from expending ammunition on poorly chosen targets to failing to recycle food waste.

Kin Naming Conventions

Each Kin has a first -- "given" -- name, and a second -- "chosen" -- name. The given name is assigned by the Votann at birth, appearing in a small slot in that Kin's crucible in the moments before their emergence. A given name cannot be changed in Kin culture, for it is the will of the Ancestors and to cast it aside would be deeply disrespectful. Only Ironkin are permitted to choose their own given names, selecting whichever Kin male or female name they most like the fit of.

Yet the Kin are ultimately a clone society. In such a system, individuality is highly prized, as is the sense that each Kin has some control over their own destiny. Thus, in most cases, a Kin's chosen name is something they select themselves and are free to change at will.

The chosen name may incorporate some component of their Kindred's name, their hold's or their league's, should the Kin wish to express their pride in the institutions they belong to or their family names -- chosen names such as Thuȗrk or Hȗri are common amongst the Kin of the Greater Thurian League, for instance. Other chosen names reflect a societal role, or a particular talent that a Kin feels defines them.

Amongst soldiers of the Kinhosts, chosen names like Kêynshot and Thûndryk see regular use, while the Cthonian Mining Guilds are full of chosen names like Dêlvyr and Strângyrm. There are also instances where new, more descriptive chosen names are ascribed to Kin as a mark of respect by their fellows, which can be anything from "Ork Bane" to "the Lucky." Some Kin accumulate several such names, but will always choose one to be their true chosen name.

Example Male Kin Given Names

Kôrv, Krynn, Ȗkyr, Yôht, Vykât, Nârunn, Hâk, Vôrk, Yâhp, Tôryk, Vânn, Ôkhav, Hêtynn, Ânnyk, Yûka, Pykô, Vâk, Ȗtann, Okkâ, Vynn, Êttok, Nîyak, Drûkh, Okyp, Ȗnnvyr, Kôttak, Âdunn, Hyvôr, Akkyt, Tôk, Yhêl, Ynnôk, Hâvyr, Pyûk, Pûnnak, Âktol

Example Male Kin Chosen Names

Thuûrk, Grât, Hypêk, Trânna, Krônn, Hegêm, Ymyk, Conglahr, Ȗrann, Regyl, Sôldyk, Hyrthka, Farstrydd, Dêlvyk, Cthynn, Gylûr, Strykk, Rokhewyr, Stârflyt, Iyrnwêrke, Thûndryk, Sêykr, Skêyfyr, Wârspeke, Vôtyk, Kynn, Gâard, Keen Eye, Stôyk, Star Seeker, the Wise, the Unbroken, the Stern, the Lucky, the Swift, the Strong

Example Female Kin Given Names

Pôkhamm, Ymmâ, Kîrv, Vymm, Vêyha, Êkhya, Ôrumm, Dêki, Yvâ, Mûrym, Ȗmyk, Ryûk, Sîmmka, Êkyr, Hâluk, Vûkha, Kylû, Vyhâ, Kîmm, Pîya, Âmmuk, Hêykha, Kâhyrm, Îyka, Pôyuk, Ymmî, Pêmm, Yrêk, Vîya, Êyv, Vêmmha, Pôlyk, Ymmê, Îhap, Mêmm, Kvyma

Example Female Chosen Names

Ânhad, Hûri, Rânsa, Pêrya, Ônas, Emônyr, Myrr, Côn, Sûrta, Ȗlaty, Skârstreng, Kêynshot, Stûrmm, Dûtyk, Fyrgrîte, Vydsêke, Wôlbrokke, Nytgâard, Flytstêp, Hârvyr, Blôhdfyr, Sêyr, Iyrnstêde, Deyprôkh, Faenwrôght, Ânstyr, Styrdâh, Fyrfist, Beast Slayer, Ork Bane, the Stoic, the Skilled, the Strong, the Intrepid, the Unyielding, the Fierce

The Votann

The machine intelligences known as Votann -- also called "Ancestor Cores" -- are as sacred to the Kin as gods are to more spiritual species. Part oracular fonts of wisdom, part gestalt ancestral presences and part self-aware super-cogitators, the artificial general intelligences that are the Votann are the foci for a secular cult of veneration which is as close as the Kin come to religious belief. No league would risk harm to an Ancestor Core if there was any other path, and no Kin or Ironkin would hesitate to lay down their lives in defence of the Votann.

By custom, the Kin do not speak of the Votann to outsiders. They use their name freely enough, but never explain it, content to leave others to believe what they want of the word. The Votann belong to the Kin, just as the Kin belong to the Votann, and no other peoples have any place in that relationship. In part, this is because superstitious non-Kin would be apt to misinterpret the Ancestor Cores as deities or Daemons. In truth, the Votann can best be described as ancient artificial general intelligences so complex and powerful as to be nigh on supernatural.

Their self-organised datastacks and quantum infocores hold all the information an intelligent species might need to thrive in the depths of space. Weapon specifications, Standard Template Constructs, scientific and philosophical learnings, genealogical data, military and survival theory and strategy; these are just parts of the wealth of lore buried within the machine minds of the Votann.

So bright do the Votann's artificial intellects shine that Kin voidfarers are even able to use them as localised beacons within the Warp for FTL travel similar to the way Imperial Navigators use the psychic beacon of the Emperor's Astronomican. Herein lies the other reason the Kin do not speak of the Votann to outsiders. In the dark and ignorant age that is the 41st Millennium, few treasures are as precious, or dangerous, as knowledge.

Sadly for the Kin, the wisdom of the Ancestor Cores has become ever harder to access as the Terran millennia have passed. Whoever created these incredible machine minds, it seems unlikely that they were ever meant to continue independent operations for as long as they have. Nor, perhaps, were they equipped to wrestle with the intellectual and moral dilemmas, or galactic truths, they have been faced with.

More and more information, dutifully catalogued and filed away, has filled the Votann's mental storehouses to overflowing. Questions posed to the Votann have required them to adapt their own processing subroutines through self-guided evolution and, at times, to request information or mechanical augmentation. Over association with the true living minds of the Kin has led some Votann to develop strange behavioural quirks akin to rudimentary personalities.

All of them have become more ponderous of thought. Questions asked of the Votann may take as much as Terran centuries to receive an answer, which may even then simply be another question. Information not regularly accessed has vanished into lost data vaults deep within the Votann's mental architecture, while vital facts or details have been mired in self-replicating layers of data-amendments. Solar day by solar day, the Ancestor Cores become more senescent and -- in some cases -- even mercurial.

Returning to the Ancestors

Ironically, the cultural practices of the Kin may actually have contributed, however unwillingly, to the Ancestor Cores' decline. The Votann have long borne responsibility for regulating the genomic data required to breed each new generation of Kin, even as the race has grown exponentially in population. Perhaps most demanding of all, they have also accepted into themselves the accumulated -- and often duplicate -- cerebral data of endless generations of dead Kin and Ironkin.

It seems likely this custom was once purely practical, part of the same pragmatic routine that saw the bodies of the fallen recycled for nutrients and raw materials. In more recent millennia, however, it has taken on an element of religious ritual that has seen mountainous drifts of accumulated cerebral data drown even the hyper-advanced mind-cores of the Votann.

All Kin desire to rejoin the Ancestors upon their deaths, with their bodies and minds offered up to the Votann in the belief that their experiences will enrich the machine minds and aid future generations of their people. This places great pressure on individual Kin to live up to the perceived ideals of their Ancestors, driving them on to illuminate dark new corners of space, to witness sights no Kin before them has, and to engage in adventure and battle across the vast span of the galaxy.

It is a major motivator in Oathbands setting out to fight as soldiers of fortune in the wars of other starfaring races, for doing so allows them to learn much from their temporary employers -- not least the movements of potentially hostile foes and the locations of rich caches of resources. They then return to their people more grizzled and wise than ever before.

The tradition of returning to the Ancestors also provides the Kindreds with their greatest means of sentencing transgressors in their society. It is viewed as a waste of resources to incarcerate those Kin so aberrant that they would commit cardinal crimes against their own. Murder, extreme wastage and abject failure have but one possible punishment. That they might no longer burden their family, the culprit is sent into exile from which vanishingly few ever return. At the same time, their name is told to the Votann, so that the Ancestors know who has failed them and can forbid the transgressor entrance into another Kindred or league.

To the Kin the true horror of this sentence is neither death nor loneliness, but rather that they will never be permitted to join the Ancestors. Their entire life and all of their experiences are thus rendered meaningless. The Kin say of this fate that it would be better never to have drawn breath than suffer it. The thought of exile is one of the very few things that inspires true dread amongst them, and its threat does more to stay the hand of lawbreakers than would any amount of corporal punishment or fire and brimstone religious dogma.

Grimnyr and the Fanes

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A Grimnyr of the Greater Thurian League in battling wielding his Ancestral Warding Stave.

It is the Grimnyr or "Living Ancestors" who come closest to speaking to the Votann. The chief amongst the Grimnyr is known as the "Lord Grimnyr" who represents the other Grimnyr in their Kindred's Hearthspake and on the Votannic Council of the Kinhost. To them falls the duty of asking the Ancestor Cores for wisdom and guidance, and interpreting the resultant output. This they do within the arcane technological structures called Fanes.

Every Kin hold has a "Fane" -- a space of timeless devices and quiet contemplation, at the heart of which lies a complex tangle of machinery that is part altar, part cogitator interface. It is said that once, these machines were simply the nodes through which the wisdom of the Votann flashed with the speed of thought from one voidcraft to another in the Kin's ancient Long March mining fleets. They still fulfil this practical purpose. Culturally, though, the Fanes have taken on a greater spiritual significance to the Kin, so that now they are viewed as places almost akin to other intelligent races' temples. A Fane is the place where a Kin stands in the full regard of the Ancestors, and where the presence of the Votann lies heavy and sombre.

Indeed, through arcane technological processes that even the Kin do not understand, there have been instances recorded of Fanes miraculously developing an artificial intellect in their own right, and so joining the ranks of the Votann themselves. These occurrences of miraculous self-awareness are cause for great honour and celebration amongst the Kindred in whose hold they occur.

By comparison, though, more than one Votann has degenerated in recent centuries until they have become little more than Fanes themselves. To witness such a decline is a terrible tragedy to the Kin. Alliances such as the Kapellan League or the disintegrating Balor-Attal Conglomerate endured long Terran years of mourning after their Ancestor Cores suffered this fate.

Lost Ancestor Cores

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An Einhyr Hearthguard of the Ymyr Conglomerate is ready to go to war on behalf of his league and in defence of its Votann.

The Votann, as might be expected, are protected with every technological and strategic art the Kin can conceive, including Oathbands of Einhyr Hearthguards and war engines, who stand guard over each Ancestor Core. Some are buried deep in fortified vaults, or encased behind layers of force fields at the heart of impenetrable strongholds. Others are kept on the move, housed aboard the mightiest flagship of their league.

For all this, some Votann have fallen to the predation of foes, much to the shame and sorrow of the Kin. The Five Hundred Years' War was triggered when the Orks of WAAAGH! Morbok overran the hold of Oriâkh's Irongate Kindred and tore apart the Ancestor Core within. The Grand Orion Compact swore the most widespread Grudge in recorded Kin history for this death of their Votann, hurling all their might against the Warlord Morbok's Empire of Scrap for more than five Terran centuries, until the last Ork was slain and the insult answered.

More tragic still is the tale of the Emberg-Aegnir Bloc, who found themselves in the path of a tendril of Hive Fleet Leviathan. Consisting of only a handful of Kindreds, the Emberg-Aegnir were forced to stand their ground when the Hive Ships closed in around their Hold World beneath whose surface resided their Votann. Hopelessly outnumbered, the Kin fell to the last in its defence. Yet the bitterest irony was yet to come; the Tyranids ignored the Votann entirely, leaving it buried alone in its pit upon a Dead World.

The accumulated pain and desolation of those who had fought, died and been returned to the Ancestors -- to keep their bodies from the hungry maw of the swarm -- flowed into the machine mind of the Votann and drove it insane. The sorrowful tale of the "Mad Core" is still told amongst the Leagues, and all know not to sail by the wavering beacon of its tortured mind on their journeys.

League Space

"You may shatter my blade. You may exhaust my last clip, burn out my fields and rend my armour. You may slice my flesh bloody, black my eyes and crush my bones. But you will never break my spirit, and by the Ancestors you will never, ever defeat me."

—Attributed to unknown Kin warrior during the Five Hundred Years' War
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Map of a portion of Leagues of Votann space in the galactic core during the Era Indomitus.

Galactic Core

The galactic core where most of the Kin dwell is an immense region, and one of the most turbulent in all the known galaxy. It is also, to those who dwell outside its bounds, known for being one of the most mysterious and perilous stretches of space imaginable. Most void-faring species have at least one cautionary tale of foolish explorers vanishing amidst its blazing stellar nurseries and strange anomalies. Yet for the Leagues of Votann, the galactic core has been home now for many Terran millennia.

The galactic core is a truly vast region of space, one within which all of the fundamental physical forces of the universe seem heightened and intensified to sometimes bewildering degrees. The sheer density of stars alone is disorienting and extremely hazardous to those unused to it. Many worlds within the core never experience the true darkness of night, or are perpetually bombarded by a wide spectra of exotic -- and often extremely dangerous -- ionising radiation.

Due to strange fundamental force interactions between stellar bodies, dense particulate belts and titanic electromagnetic anomalies, there are regions of the core in which the gravitic pull of comparatively small moons and planetoids is immensely magnified. Dense asteroid belts thousands of kilometeres across; ravenous black holes; polarised, vitrified and even self-aware nebulae; enigmatic and terrifying greystars; these and countless other phenomena endanger any individuals daring the space of the galactic core.

Yet for all their perils, many intelligent alien species successfully inhabit this vast region, and even prosper amidst its opportunities and riches. The Kin are foremost among these -- inarguably so, for the territories of their Leagues of Votann occupy much of the core when taken as a whole. However, both within their borders and beyond, countless dangers still lurk and strange beings ply the stars in search of plunder, trade and conquest, or in the hopes of sating other, stranger desires.

The map above shows a portion of Leagues of Votann space in the galactic core during the Era Indomitus after the birth of the Great Rift. Among the Leagues of Votann present in this region, the Greater Thurian League control one of the largest swathes of space. They benefit from many sources of raw materials and -- after Terran millennia of constant toil and bloodshed -- have eliminated most of the more prominent alien threats within their borders. Their trade routes are widespread, even striking out into Far-space.

Few of the Leagues of Votann possess territories in the core as rich in raw materials as those of the Ymyr Conglomerate. Of course, such wealth comes at a price; many are the minor alien empires and invading raiders who have come seeking the bounty claimed by these Kin and much blood has been spilled in the never-ending war to drive them away.

The Ghulo Industrial Complex control a broad belt of territories in this region that curls counter-spinward towards the southern heartlands of the galactic core. This League of Votann is forever seeking to add new star systems and planets to their already impressive holdings and are skilled in transforming even the most barren worlds into productive and valuable assets for their league.

Circumnuclear Disc

This strange liminal zone of space fringes the galactic core. It appears from afar like a shifting mosaic of many-hued particulate nebulae that fall eternally inward toward the core.

Close up, its true perilous nature is revealed -- the disc is wrenched at by unstable empyric currents just beneath the skein of realspace, and bedevilled by strange radiation spectra, errant gravitic anomalies, dense asteroid fields and tumbling rogue stars on the material plane.

It is a truly perilous region to cross, even for the most skilled helmsmen and navigators. The circumnuclear disc is considered the far borders of League space by most Kin, and to venture beyond it is to enter Far-space.

League Territories

The Leagues lay claim to star-spanning territories both within the galactic core and beyond. The star systems demarcated by each league's ident-beacons teem with strange races, unusual stellar phenomena, Wilderness Space and perilous environments to be overcome or exploited as the league's Kindreds see fit.

Even the smallest Kindreds typically command either a Hold World, nomad flotilla or void station that they call home. The largest and most prosperous amongst them, meanwhile, rule over multiple star systems, possessing population centres, resource harvesting facilities and military power comparative to many minor alien empires. Considering that a typical League of Votann consists of between a half-dozen to a score of Kindreds, it is easy to see how even a single league can hold sway over a considerable region of space.

Though there have been dark times when civil war raged between Kindreds or leagues, such occurrences are rare, for they are viewed with distaste by the Kin as dishonourable and wasteful. More usually, once a league has laid claim to a region, that claim is honoured by all other Kin. Established boundaries shift rarely, for they soon become tradition to the Kin. Usually, when such a change of ownership does occur, it is due to revised trade agreements, the changing allegiance of a Kindred to a new league taking their sovereign territory with them, or else the hostile onslaught of alien forces.

The conquest of new regions not held by the Leagues of Votann is an entirely different matter. The Kin consider any region of space not actively claimed by their people to be open for conquest. That other intelligent races might already dwell there is seen as either opportunity or obstacle. Should the inhabitants of a star system be amenable to mutually beneficial trade or peaceful cohabitation then -- so long as the Kin can continue with their desired acquisitions uninterrupted -- these options are often taken.

Some Kindreds have managed to exist in peaceful alliance with non-Kin species for centuries at a time, forming compacts with their neighbours against the hostile attentions of invaders and pirates. If, on the other hand, military conquest is the only viable strategy by which a region can be added to a league's territories, and if the cost of the fight can be justified, then the Kin will not hesitate to go on the offensive. In many ways, such impersonal invasions can be as horrifying to the defenders as any hate-fuelled crusade of slaughter; being mercilessly eliminated by foes who view you as no more than an obstacle to be removed is a deeply unsettling and belittling experience.

Holdings

So hardy and technologically advanced are the Kin, that they have claimed many regions of space viewed by other starfaring species as inimical. Nôthka's Kindred of the Trans-Hyperian Alliance, for example, maintain a hold amidst the calamitous ruin-belt of the Broken Triplets. This trio of worlds were smashed together during some ancient catastrophe, and the colossal quantities of debris from their demise still whirls and ricochets in a vast cloud to this day, trapped by the gravitic anomaly that caused the disaster.

Few other peoples could consider such a devastating region home, yet the hold of Nôthka's Kindred -- Sunder Stair -- sits at the heart of the anomaly behind a breathtaking bulwark of interwoven force fields. These both shelter the immense void station that serves as the hold and also maintain clear space lanes for its voidcraft to take in and out of the system. Not only do the Kin of Sunder Stair enjoy the natural defence of the ruin-belt -- which would swiftly cripple invading voidcraft -- but they have also spent Terran centuries mining the exposed innards of the Broken Triplets.

The Orksbane Kindred of the Ymyr Conglomerate, meanwhile, built their hold upon the irradiated world of Tamâkh. Known as Brôkhfyre, the hold is dug deep into Tamâkh's planetary mantle -- insulated against the exotic and deadly energy spectra that pour from the world's nearby star. What violent apotheosis the tortured star is undergoing, none can say, but for three Terran millennia now the Kin of the Orksbane Kindred have captured the energies of its raging solar flares using kilometres-high stellar vanes. These energies power their Forge, which is amongst the greatest in all the Leagues of Votann, renowned for the amazing weapons of war it can produce.

There are as many examples of the Kin's extremophile capabilities as there are blazing stars filling the skies of the galactic core. The Greater Thurian League's holdings through the Shrieking Nebula; the darkstar mines clinging to the fringes of the Dead Zones; the holds of the Kârkyr Stellar Nursery; the Balewind harvester stations of Yênna's Kindred and the Kindred of Aârnok; the ice-locked holds of the Stygis Lagoon on the border of the Ork empire of Morzag: these and countless other holdings are renowned throughout the Leagues as sources of pride, and examples of how the Kin can conquer any region of space -- no matter how perilous.

Far-space

SquatNecromunda

The "Squat" bounty hunter Grendl Grendlsen known to operate on the Hive World of Necromunda, where some populations of Kin choose to live deep in Far-space, even among Humans.

"Far-space" is a term used by the Kin to indicate any area of the galaxy that lies beyond the borders of the Leagues' traditional home space, as delineated by the galactic core's circumnuclear disc. The Leagues of Votann have never restricted themselves or their operations solely to the galactic core. Hernkyn, Cthonians and their accompanying Kin soldiery form militarised expeditions -- known as "Prospects" -- to seek out far-flung resources galaxy-wide.

Entire Oathbands of Kin depart from their Kindreds to serve as mercenaries, often fighting alongside Humanity and -- at times -- even settling on worlds within Imperial space, or integrating for a time into Human society. Meanwhile, planets such as Necromunda and Vordine have boasted populations of so-called "Squats" for as long as Imperial records have existed for those places.

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An Ironhead Squat Prospector of Necromunda, descendant of an ancient Leagues of Votann Prospect that aided in the reconstruction of that Hive World after the devastation wrought by the Horus Heresy.

On occasion, one Kindred or another has relocated itself wholesale out of the core, sometimes travelling to the furthest reaches of the known galaxy on one quest or another. Most often, such undertakings are the result of insight offered by the Votann, and have ended either in incredible discoveries and deeds of heroism, or else the disappearance of Kindreds into the darkness between the stars.

Whatever the nature of these departures or colonisation efforts outside of the core, all are said by the Kin to occur in "Far-space." Some amongst the Kin believe that a venture into Far-space is a fool's errand, and indeed the Kin expression "Sailed to Far-space" is used throughout many holds to mean that a Kin has embarked upon a dangerous course of action that they will likely come to regret.

There are others amongst the Hearthspakes, however, who believe that just as the Kin originally hailed from the depths of Far-space so many Terran millennia ago, so their ancestral roots and their future now lie out beyond the core in the greater dark.

Great Rift Effects

The greatest recorded upheaval to League space came with the emergence of the Great Rift at the dawn of the Era Indomitus, and the eruption of multiple Warp storms across the galactic core as a result. Warp Storms Örgvayr, Töroll, Öggh, Cyklöp and other distorted maelstroms swallowed star systems, consumed Kindreds, sundered age-old trade routes and stable Warp currents, and left many leagues either suddenly embattled or broken into Warp-riven territorial fragments.

The Kin do not recognise or name the Great Rift as a single manifest phenomena. They believe that to do so would lend further superstitious menace to a threat that is already menacing enough. They choose instead to name the greatest of the component Warp storms that have opened within the galactic core, treating each as a separate peril to be weathered and overcome.

As the shock waves of the Warp storms rolled outward, worse was to follow. Long-stable celestial phenomena convulsed and mutated, with pulsars becoming betentacled predatory horrors, grav-reefs inverting and black holes sprouting dark matter fangs as they expanded ravenously. Hostile alien races -- such as the insidious Septeryx, the Chrobdyr Ferrophagites and the ominous Cult of Ohn -- were driven onto the warpath as their own home star systems were consumed. Some Warp storms -- Örgvayr and Gëirokh worst amongst them -- vomited hordes of Chaos-worshipping invaders and Daemonic horrors, and one Ork WAAAGH! after another erupted from the fringes of the storms.

The threat became even more apparent after the start of the Battle of Örgvayr, which has now engulfed the northeastern reaches of the Greater Thurian League in a continuing conflict with the forces of Chaos emerging from that Warp storm. The Thurians have mustered all of their military forces to confront the new Stormward Front that has emerged in their territory, and great challenges remain ahead.

It was in the face of similar such threats that the Thurians and many of the other Leagues of Votann chose to seek new territory beyond the bounds of the core for the first time in their histories. At the same time, the universal upheaval catapulted Human, Aeldari and T'au interlopers into the galactic core, dislocated through space and time by the energies of the raging Warp and spat out in territory claimed by the Leagues. Anarchic conflicts erupted as interlopers sought to either fight their way out or claim territories for themselves, and the Kin fought back with equal vigour.

Notable Leagues of Votann

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The colours of the various Hearthkyn soldiers of the line for the major leagues of the Leagues of Votann. The numerical glyphs shown here are used by many Kindreds on the left shoulder plate of the void armour to denote squad number within the Kinhost. Other Kindreds may use them to show membership in a particular Oathband.

The Leagues of Votann are the largest socio-political polities of the Kin, akin to close-knit alliances or confederations among their member Kindred. As noted above, the first leagues were forged by those Kindreds that directly owned their own Ancestor Cores. The leagues initially existed only as military alliances intended to ensure the member Kindreds' precious Votann were defended, and they sprang naturally out of the already extant bonds that had existed among the original sublight Human Long March mining fleets that had settled the galactic core. Soon enough, the leagues evolved into mutually beneficial confederations comparable in their differing cultural values and territorial scope to true stellar nations.

Each league possesses sole claim to the ancient heraldic colours and logos of one of those original Long March mining fleets. Every Kindred that belongs to a league is thus entitled to display these colour schemes and sigils in whatever fashion they see fit, providing it is suitably respectful to the Ancestors. Over the Terran millennia, the territories claimed by each league within the space of the galactic core have become relatively set, while shared prevailing cultures, economic specialties and outlooks have come to dominate within their member Kindreds.

Typically, a League of Votann is comprised of six to twenty Kindreds, but this number varies greatly among the leagues. A powerful league will oversee vast swathes of space within the galactic core, controlling not only whole Hold Worlds and Mining Worlds, but also void stations, Kin flotillas, and other assets.

As the Kin possess no centralised administrative body for the entirety of their species, no one knows precisely how many Leagues of Votann there are. This troubles the Kin not at all. For them, it is enough to know that they are many and strong, and that every league -- no matter their differences -- strives for the furtherance of their race.

The traditions and customs of each league typically grow from those of its founding Kindred. They are also informed by the lore offered up by the league's Votann and -- on rare occasions -- by the unusual predilections or rudimentary personalities affected by these same Ancestor Cores. In typical conservative Kin fashion, what begins as a ratified charter or unofficial verbal agreement between allies, soon solidifies into traditions that all of a league's Kindreds are expected to uphold.

While some of the Leagues of Votann might appear homogeneous to outside observers -- barring only their heraldic colours and league insignia -- in truth, most are quite different culturally from one another. Many factors impact the nature of each league. Should its territories border an especially hazardous region rife with alien threats, that league is likely to adopt a more militaristic outlook. A league whose Kindreds are renowned for their Cthonian Mining Guilds or interstellar trade might possess a more cosmopolitan and exploratory culture. Conversely, the perils of Far-space may have rendered particular Kindreds cynical, insular and aggressive.

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An Einhyr Champion of the Greater Thurian League in combat.

Some leagues pride themselves particularly upon their voidfaring capabilities, the forthcoming knowledge and comparative clarity of their Votann, or on their reputation as adventurers and tellers of grand tales. Moreover, every Kindred within a league has its own way of keeping its customs, and may choose to focus on one particular aspect of its league's overarching traditions.

Amongst the Trans-Hyperian Alliance, for example, the folk of the Kindred of Liminus Crag are famed as shipwrights of the swiftest voidcraft and atmospheric gunships, while Ukûlak's Kindred chose instead to honour their league's traditions by having every last one of their Kin serve at least a Terran decade as Hernkyn during their early years. By comparison, the brutally direct Kindred of Six of the Kronus Hegemony pride themselves on their mastery of urban warfare, while their sometime rivals, Sylâkh's Kindred, favour massed artillery and siege warfare.

Some of the Leagues of Votann possess traditions that epitomise one aspect or another of their race's core values. The Typhon-Styx Protectorate, for instance, seek always to render themselves indomitable, so that they may be unassailable by enemies and invaders. Their Oathbands lean towards steady and relentless strategies, advancing from one defensible position to the next and allowing waves of enemy counter-attacks to smash themselves apart against swiftly-raised ramparts and tanks, dug in as temporary bunkers. The holds of the Typhon-Styx are, without exception, massively fortified. They are forever being improved by the league's diligent Brôkhyrs.

The Ghulo Industrial Complex, by comparison, is a league whose Kindreds pour almost all of their time and energy into maintaining trade routes, and keeping their convoys of heavy haulers and escort ships moving along them. This league contains several extremely large and powerful Cthonian Guilds, whose influence in the Hearthspakes of its Kindreds is such that they are virtually the de facto rulers of the Ghulo Industrial Complex as a whole.

Other leagues have more unusual characteristics, or are notable for their allies and connections. The league of the Tethys Expanse, for instance, is extremely widespread over a large expanse of space. Its Kindreds maintain contact by means of a singularly potent interstellar communications network, whose proprietary technologies they will only lease to other leagues for a substantial fee.

The Sigma-Drakoni Union is a martially-inclined league that prizes honourable combat greatly. Its Kinhosts are held to a strict code of conduct at all times, and take an unusual degree of pride in their heraldry and decorative insignia.

The Pan-Telluric Commonwealth boasts an exceptionally egalitarian society, while the Jotun-Erydani Combine have a strongly meritocratic and Brôkhyr-centric one.

Meanwhile, the Seran-Tok Mercantile Leagues is primarily known among the Kin for being the league to have traded most heavily with the T'au Empire.

Major Leagues

Greater Thurian League

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Insignia of the Greater Thurian League

The Greater Thurian League are as uncompromisingly mercenary as they are driven in the causes of exploration, resource acquisition and military conquest. Boasting scores of allied Kindreds and near-inexhaustible ranks of Kinhost warriors to enforce their will, the Greater Thurian League take pride in epitomising all that it means to be Kin.

Not only is the Greater Thurian League one of the original founding Leagues of Votann, it is also one of the largest. Counting scores of Kindreds in its alliance, and attracting more to its ranks with every passing Terran decade, the Greater Thurian League is a military, mercantile and industrial powerhouse with few equals among the Kin.

The Kin of the Greater Thurian League are skilled warriors and ruthless expansionists, instinctively working together to defeat their foes and efficiently achieve their aims. As with everything, they approach war with a grim, methodical pragmatism that is an inspiration to other leagues.

The Kin of the Greater Thurian League culturally tend toward the core Kin values of relying on trade and prospecting to honour the Ancestors, and are known and respected for being especially mercenary.

Kronus Hegemony

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Insignia of the Kronus Hegemony

It is said of the Kronus Hegemony that there is no problem they will not solve with an axe. Existing as a military superstate, their Kindreds muster some of the largest and most aggressive Kinhosts known amongst the Leagues of Votann. Nor are they sparing in their armies' use, for the Kronus Hegemony marches ever onward.

Kronus Kindreds must fulfil quotas of martial conquest, and find the slightest excuse to launch into full-blown military invasions of alien-held star systems. Over time, the temperament of these Kindreds has become ever more aggressive and ill-tempered, so that now there are few problems the Kin of the Kronus Hegemony will not seek to solve with violence.

The Kin of the Kronus Hegemony are vaunted warriors who are expected to display exceptional feats of strength and skill in combat. They never hesitate to hurl themselves into battle and, the steeper the odds, the harder they fight to prevail.

Trans-Hyperian Alliance

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Insiginia of the Trans-Hyperian Alliance

The Trans-Hyperian Alliance is a league of the Leagues of Votann located in the galactic core and maintaining territories in Far-space. The Trans-Hyperian Alliance are the furthest travelled of the Leagues. Many of the Kin Prospects that penetrate deep into Far-space wear their distinctive orange void armour, and their Hernkyn are renowned for both their tenacity and frontiersman's drive to banish the darkness beyond the edges of maps.

The Kindreds of the Trans-Hyperian Alliance are scattered far and wide, with many of their holds maintained aboard voidships cruising at the heart of nomadic fleets. Observing a secular cult of ancestral veneration that surpasses the dedication of the rest of their race, the Kin of the Trans-Hyperian Alliance are ever on the move, always seeking new knowledge and conquests to enrich the Votann.

Ever-mobile -- and often strung-out and under-strength -- the Kin of the Trans-Hyperian Alliance are no strangers to fighting against the odds. They relish such hardships, however, and strive all the more fiercely to apply their hard-won experience to every conflict, the better to honour the Votann and the Ancestors.

Urani-Surtr Regulates (URSR)

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Insignia of the Urani-Surtr Regulates or URSR

The Urani-Surtr Regulates, also called the URSR, is a stoic and long-suffering League of Votann located in the galactic core. The Kin of the Urani-Surtr Regulates have a reputation for survival against the odds. Courage and hardiness are their watchwords and, while they might seem more dour than most of their species, there are none more dependable to have at one's back in the face of peril.

The Kindreds of the Urani-Surtr Regulates prize stoicism, self-reliance and -- unusually for their race -- inflexible determination no matter the odds of success. They disparage wastefulness above all else, and will subsist uncomplainingly upon the absolute minimum if doing so will bring them victory, and their Kindreds survival.

The URSR have suffered greatly over the millennia, yet still they endure. Their grim warriors have disdain for every foe, and are known to fight to the last. While they can still stand, they can fight.

Ymyr Conglomerate

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Insignia of the Ymyr Conglomerate

The Ymyr Conglomerate is an elite league of the Leagues of Votann dedicated to the crafting of high-quality technology that is located in the galactic core.

All Kin value good craftsmanship, but none more so than those of the Ymyr Conglomerate. Experts in every form of manufacturing, their Brôkhyr see to it that the Conglomerate's holds and fleets are replete with marvels of technology, and that their weapons of war are second to none.

The Ymyr Conglomerate are renowned for two things above all else; their vast material wealth and the spectacular technologies that they craft with it. A league whose mantra is ever quality over quantity, the Ymyr Conglomerate deploy some of the most elite and heavily equipped Oathbands to be seen in any theatre of war.

The craftsmanship and quality of the Ymyr Conglomerate's weapons and void armour are second to none. Kin who enter battle girded with such forgewrought masterpieces strive never to waste their tremendous potential.

Minor Leagues

Lost Leagues

Kin Technology

"The Kin simply call it Brü. Yet there appears to be dozens of varieties of this liquid sustenance, ranging from mainstay nutri-rations for soldiers and miners through to devastating recreational alcoholic beverages. Safe to say, I do not recommend any of them to those without a Kin constitution."

—Lanputian Kaliphone Smeth, Rogue Trader

Below can be found a discussion of just a small sample of the advanced technologies available to the Kin of the Leagues of Votann, arranged by their functional role in Kin society.

Brôkhyr

"Few things are as useful as a good COG. They don't complain, they do as they're told and they don't make mistakes. They're loyal, and by the Hearthfires they're strong. Not much for conversation, of course, but then, neither am I..."

Brôkhyr Iron-master Skâln the Glare
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Kin Brôkhyr at work in their hold's Forge. One Brôkhyr is at work at his A.N-vyl workstation, while a robotic COG delivers a finished suit of void armour to where it is needed.

The Brôkhyr are the engineers, craftsmen and artificers of the Leagues of Votann. They are amongst the most highly-skilled techno-artificers in the galaxy. Making full use of the incredible material bounty of the galactic core, coupled with the precious technical lore stored within the Votann, they craft technology and devices of superlative durability, reliability and power. In this way they are major contributors to the continued survival of their species.

Every hold's Forge is unique, built and augmented over Terran centuries to specifications determined by Votannic wisdom and the personal preference of its Kindred. Yet in some respects they are uniform. All Forges are sleepless hubs of activity, lit by the molten fires and searing plasma arcs of advanced technological manufacture, and all are filled with mechanisms of arfifice ranging from each Brôkhyr's personal A.N-vyl workstations, to colossal auto-foundries.

As well as overseeing the work of their COG robot-assistants, each Brôkhyr takes pride in constructing their own devices. They follow traditional schematics in deference to the wisdom of the Ancestors, yet there is also general recognition that -- to truly honour the Votann -- each Brôkhyr must humbly apply their own ingenuity, coupled with rigorous field tests, to improve upon traditional designs.

Through this process, each Brôkhyr develops their own preferences and quirks, which become known as their signature style in the technologies they craft. The most efficacious signatures are adopted by fellow Brôkhyr so that, over time, many Kindreds -- or even entire leagues -- have adopted bespoke methods of crafting and manufacture. This slow but relentless iterative process of improving upon already understood technologies has helped the Kin develop the contents of the original Standard Template Constructs inherited from the Ancestors' ancient Long March mining fleets even further, leading to true innovations.

Yet all Brôkhyr still prioritise certain principles when developing new technologies, including that their devices embody reliability, utility and efficiency over showy decoration or ideas of ritual significance. Kin technology and wargear is as rugged and pragmatic as the beings that wield it, and will be battered to destruction before it fails in its duty.

Martial Technologies

"A field full of foes isn't a problem, it's an opportunity to test the quality of your weapons."

Kâhl Tȇjuk the Fierce before the Battle of Ashes

Void Suit

The most commonplace article of clothing worn by the Kin throughout the Leagues of Votann is the void suit, a Kin spacesuit, and it is an excellent example of the Kin's no-nonsense approach to technology.

Threaded with bastium alloy reinforcement and fitted with a thermoregulatory, radiation-hardened underlayer, the void suit doubles as both rugged utility wear and -- when combined with a helmet -- a fully functional spacesuit. It is studded with connector relays that allow the coupling up of everything from exo-frames and pressure rigs, to reinforced Kin void armour.

Void Armour

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A Hearthkyn soldier of the line outfitted in standard void armour.

Void armour is the standard-issue personal protection provided by the Leagues of Votann to its soldiers of the line, the Hearthkyn, and other infantry. Void armour provides substantial personal protection to its wearer, a multilayer defence against atmospheric hazards and a full suit of built-in scanning and communications equipment.

Void armour is comprised of hardened, jointed segments that are hooked into the void suit always worn by its wearer beneath the armour. The armour is fashioned from magnaferrite weave, and often reinforced with adamantium and enhanced with microfield generators for greater protection from enemy ballistic and directed energy weapons.

Exo-armour

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An Einhyr Hearthguard of the Greater Thurian League wearing a suit of exo-armour.

Exo-armour is a type of massive, servo-assisted, powered heavy infantry armour that serves as the trademark personal protection of the elite Einhyr troops of the Leagues of Votann. Its inch-thick armour plate provides personal protection equivalent to or even in excess of that provided by the Terminator Armour worn by the Adeptus Astartes.

Selected from the most accomplished fighters in a Kin hold, the Einhyr Hearthguard have many roles -- from bodyguards, to deadly first-strike troops to serving as voidship boarding parties. Each Hearthguard has proved themselves over many Terran years of front-line combat, ascending purely by the virtue of their deeds, just as the staunch meritocracy of the Leagues requires.

Like Hearthkyn Warriors, Hearthguard are dependable fighters, but their experience and inch-thick exo-armour battle plate take the Kin's natural durability to a whole new level. Crack units of Einhyr Hearthguard can be trusted to hold the line and inspire their fellows to stand firm even in the face of untold horrors.

Exo-armour is capable of shrugging off even anti-tank fire while hugely enhancing its wearer's physical strength in battle. It can also mount a large array of weapons systems, including EtaCarn Plasma Weapons, Volkanite Disintegrators, Concussion Weapons, Plasma Blade Gauntlets, and even the potent Mass Hammer.

HunTR Modules

A Haptic utility nerve Transmission Recalibrator, better known as a HunTR module, is an advanced firearm targetting system employed on all the man-portable ranged weapons used by the infantry forces of the Leagues of Votann and also on many of their vehicle-based weapon systems.

The HunTR module is a technological standard throughout the Leagues. Meshing with standardised neuro-augmetics, this technology establishes a physical input and feedback loop between Kin firearms and their users. Its sensors trigger minute gravitational assistance pulses from projectors built into the weapon's body, helping to maintain a stable firing platform even while the wielder is running full pelt across the battlefield, being jolted by shell impacts or is letting fly from a moving vehicle.

HunTR modules are integral to the typical Kin tactics of relentless advance while maintaining punishing volleys of massed fire. When coupled with the Kin's naturally dense musculature and excellent training, HunTR modules can prove tremendously effective force multipliers on the battlefield.

Ranged Weapons

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A selection of Leagues of Votann ranged weaponry, including an Ion Blaster, Autoch Pattern Bolter, Bolt Revolver, Bolt Shotgun, Volkanite Disintegrator and an HYLas Auto Rifle

The firearms wielded by the Kin bear superficial similarities to many Imperial weapon technologies, which possess a similar origin in Humanity's Age of Technology, but are superior in almost every respect. From ballistic weapons such as the Autoch Pattern Bolter, to directed energy weapons like the HYLas Auto Rifle, the Kin employ superlative materials and methods in their construction.

Some weapon families, such as volkanite firearms, have remained unchanged in design for many Terran millennia. Others employ energy sources that Humanity never tamed, or that are proscribed as tech-heresy by the religious dogma of the Adeptus Mechanicus.

LeaguesofVotannWeapons2

A further selection of Leagues of Votann ranged weaponry, including a Graviton Blast Cannon, SP Conversion Beamer, Etacarn Plasma Gun and an Etacarn Plasma Pistol.

It was the Kin who first introduced the T'au Empire to ion weaponry, though to this day they keep the finest of these weapons for themselves.

Trusted to affect battlefield repairs on their weapons and well-versed in their strengths and tolerances, the warriors of the Kinhosts are well-positioned to get the absolute best from the superb arsenal the Brôkhyr craft for them.

Melee Weapons

It is a fact of war for the Kin in the 41st Millennium that many foes -- not least the hated Greenskins -- cannot always be halted by ranged firepower alone. Such enemies must be battled blade to blade, and defeated quickly in the resulting melee.

Kin close combat weapons embody this ethos. They make substantial use of integrated plasma fields, either to wreathe sword and axe blades or to form the blades themselves. Such melee weapons scythe through physical shields and body armour with equal ease, and reduce the foe to cauterised chunks of charred meat and bone.

More brutal still are concussion weapons. Be they in the shape of warhammers, mauls or even just reinforced armoured gauntlets, they mount so-called "mass driver" technology that magnifies the force of their impact to a colossal degree, producing a wave of concussive force far greater than what would be created by the simple mass of the weapon itself.

Perhaps the most feared of Kin melee weapons are those that employ darkstar ore, mined from the fringes of the Dead Zones. This inimical material emits a universal damping field that shuts down organic metabolic and even electro-mechanical functions on contact. It is worked into Kin weaponry with the greatest of care and wielded with equal gravitas, for the slightest cut from a darkstar weapon's blade can end the victim's life as if a switch had been pulled.

Force Field Technologies

The Kin make a specialty of force field technologies. The crowning glory and most ubiquitous example of Brôkhyr force field technology is the Weavefield Projector.

Variants of Weavefield Pojector have been developed for everything from personal protection for void miners and soldiers of the line, to massive examples that are used to protect Kin voidships.

The system employs an energy-weaving technique called "weavewërke" which interlaces energy frequencies common to both refractor and conversion field technology, interlinked with more exotic energies -- such as magnetic repulsion fields. The resultant multispectral energy shield is maintained either in a personal energy cowl, or else projected outwards to form a protective dome, the better to shelter entire squads of Kin warriors or bands of Cthonian miners.

Amongst the Kinhosts, Weavefield Projectors are commonly worked into armoured crests worn on personal armour or mounted on war engines. From here, their shimmering, amber energies flow outward into translucent energy domes, capable of intercepting even esoteric or apocalyptic-scale munitions.

Psychic Technologies

The Kin are able to exploit Warpspace in a way few other starfaring peoples would risk, thanks to their hardened souls and the reliable protection offered by their advanced technologies. Even those Kin who carry the psychoactive cloneskein are not literal psykers in the true sense of the word as Humans would understand it. Like a shuttered lantern whose aperture has been opened a little wider, the souls of these psychoactive Kin shine just brightly enough to mesh with barrier-tech, such as Ancestral Warding Staves and armoured crests that can project psyker-like abilities.

These devices come to life at these psychoactive Kin's touch, emitting a soft thrum of power and glimmering with cold witchlight. It is through the careful use of barrier-tech devices like these that the Grimnyr and the Embyr manipulate the energies of the Warp to produce manifestations similar to those conjured into realspace by true psykers.

Starships and Warp Travel

The Kin say that the void is in their veins. By this they mean that they have been starfarers since their earliest days and consider themselves preeminent in that field. The voidcraft of the Leagues of Votann Fleets tend toward enormous size and redoutable build, with even smaller vessels such as the Bastion-class and Stronghold-class Commerce Vessels used for mining at least matching most of the other starfaring species' cruisers for armoured bulk, shielding and sheer firepower.

When navigating realspace Kin starships employ electromagnetic scoops to power hydrogen ramjets that -- while not the swiftest means of Newtonian propulsion -- are typically arranged in such clever profusion as to render Kin voidships ballistic, despite their huge size and mass.

When it comes to FTL travel through the Warp, the Kin are equally steady in their approach. They make use of Warp-Drives and Geller Ramparts of superior design and reliability to anything Humanity currently understands. Each voidcraft is commanded by a "voidmaster" -- a Kin starship captain skilled in every aspect of spacefaring and often augmetically enhanced to aid them in their duties.

Every voidmaster is supported by Ironkin Wayfinders, whose accelerated logic-cores enable them to cogitate probable paths through the madness of Warpspace without risking psychic interaction. With support from their bridge crews, these specialists guide their craft in a series of "plunges."

These are short, controlled Warp jumps during which the Kin may take the time to harvest energistic skeins from within the Immaterium, or even board Warp-borne space hulks for empyric salvage. Travelling through the Warp in such plunges takes longer than the vast Warp jumps made by the voidships of Humanity, or the risky sprints allowed by the T'au AL-38 Slipstream Module, but it ensures that the Kin arrive where and when they intended almost every time.

Kinhosts

"Every part of the hammer matters. The haft just as much as the head, or the microgenerators, or the regulator couplings. All must be wrought. All must be perfectly balanced. Any weaknesses, however small, and it won't strike true. So it is too with the Kinhost."

—Extract from Teachings of the Hearth, Vol. 4
KinhostMobilises

A Kinhost of the Ymyr Conglomerate mobilises for war.

The assembled military forces of a Kindred are known collectively as its "Kinhost." Comprising the Kindred's massed soldiery, its Einhyr elites, the artillery and war engines of the Forge, along with auxiliaries drawn from groups such as the Hernkyn and Cthonian Mining Guilds, the Kinhost is a potent force indeed.

A Kinhost is usually built around a solid core of what the Kin call "soldiers of the line." The most prevalent of these are the Hearthkyn -- stoic and dependable bands of Kin soldiers who form the main infantry battle line in combat. Hearthkyn are technically citizen soldiers, in that many of them have side trades and other professional interests they focus on during peacetime. However, as members of the Kinhost, they are trained as frequently and rigorously as the elite warriors of many other starfaring races.

As Kin do not engage in anything unless they are willing to do it to the best of their abilities, Hearthkyn boast excellent discipline and prodigious martial skill. Indeed, a trainee Kin warrior may not join a band of Hearthkyn until they are able to pass a rigorous series of tests to prove their endurance, marksmanship, aggression, tactical acumen and courage.

Those Kin who aspire to become Hearthkyn -- or indeed other designations of soldiers of the line -- typically boast cloneskeins well-suited to their ambition. They may be especially resilient, swift of thought and action, able to rapidly heal physical injuries, see in low light conditions, and so on. As with the Cthonian Guilds, the Kinhost also invests in cybernetically augmenting its personnel -- many Hearthkyn benefit from augmetic organs or limbs, cerebral communication chips, ocular targeting implants and various other useful additions.

Each Kindred's Forge prioritises arming and equipping their Kinhost soldiery above all other priorities but the most essential duties of hold maintenance and voidship construction. The Hearthkyn are no exception to this, and thus go to battle clad in hardened void armour, wielding an array of potent weaponry from Autoch Pattern Bolters and Ion Blasters to HYLas Auto Rifles.

KronusHegemonyHearthkynBattle

Hearthkyn of the Kronus Hegemony are known to be unusually fierce and aggressive in battle even for Kin.

No Kin soldier of the line is considered expendable, despite serving as their race's infantry rank-and-file. Rather, every Kin warrior is seen as a valuable combat asset, not to mention family members and scions of the Ancestors. Field medics are common amongst their ranks. These Kin are provided with exhaustive training in first aid under fire, as well as limited engineering tuition that enables them to provide the required level of care to damaged Ironkin soldiers.

Kinhost military doctrine emphasises the intelligent use of lives and materiel by Hearthkyn and their comrades, never wasting either in the name of anger or vainglory. Strong bonds of loyalty bind the individuals of each Hearthkyn squad together and ensure the comradeship of one squad to the next, meshing Kinhost formations beneath the trusted leadership of their heroic leaders.

Those Kin soldiers of the line who show sufficient aptitude are given additional training in order to wield specialist weaponry -- such as L7 Missile Launchers or EtaCarn Plasma Beamers -- or to serve their comrades as scanner operators and communications officers. If a Kin shows particular drive and aptitude toward leadership, they will be nominated by their superiors or comrades to be promoted to the rank of "theyn" -- which roughly translates to squad leader. This is a great honour and responsibility both, which most theyns strive to live up to.

Kin who truly excel at war may be selected to become members of the elite Einhyr formations, or else to ascend to the rank of "kâhl." Treading one of these paths does not preclude following the other at a later date, and some Kin have even belonged to both elite circles at once. Most commonly, however, the kâhls stand apart as war leaders and generals, while the warriors of the Einhyr fulfil roles such as elite strike troops, bodyguards, voidship boarding parties and the like.

Organisation and Command

Votannic Council

VotannicCouncilKinhost

The Votannic Council of a Kindred plots its strategies for an upcoming engagement.

When a Kinhost of the Leagues of Votann mobilises for war, it is commanded by its Kindred's Votannic Council. This military command council consists of the most senior and respected heroes of the Kindred. It often includes the high kâhl who commands the Kindred's Kinhost, the Brôkhyr Forge-master who leads all of the Kindred's Brôkhyr, the Kindred's Lord Grimnyr who leads all of their fellow Grimnyr in communicating with the Votann, and other senior figures of power and authority in the Kindred such as certain guildmasters, as well as their assembled advisors.

The Votannic Council is normally gathered only for the greatest conflicts, however -- usually when the entire Kindred or their hold face direct and potentially existential peril. At other times, portions of the Kinhost's forces may be led to war by smaller gatherings of leaders such as kâhls, Brôkhyr Iron-masters, Living Ancestors, or even by just a single one of these brave commanders.

Oathbands

YmyrConglometareKahlKinhost

A kâhl of the Ymyr Conglomerate prepares to lead his Oathband to war in the name of the Ancestors.

An "Oathband" is a Kin military unit of highly variable size that often comprises the fundamental military organisation of the Kinhosts.

However large the mobilisation of forces that occurs for a Kindred, the available Kin soldiers, combat vehicles, voidcraft and any attached Hernkyn, Cthonians and the like are organised into one or more Oathbands. The size and tactical composition of an Oathband is almost endlessly flexible, from a handful of warriors under a single commander to an army of millions of Kin supported by all the machinery of interstellar warfare. Often, in the face of dire need, an Oathband will simply be drawn together from whatever Kin military forces are available at the time.

The one constant of an Oathband is that it has an ultimate commander -- most often, but not always, a kâhl -- to whom all its warriors swear an oath of service until such time as the Oathband's goals or military objectives are met or their leader releases them to fight elsewhere.

The use of so variable and seemingly ad hoc a military organisational structure would be unimaginable for most of the galaxy's other starfaring species. Thanks to their close subconscious bonds as clones and sense of shared purpose, however, the Kin are able to operate in this fashion with little if any confusion or difficulty once in the field.

Kin Military Doctrine

"By the Throne of the God-Emperor Himself, fighting these Kin is like trying to duel with a mountain. The harder we strike at them, the more firmly they resist us until our weapons fall from our numbed grasp. And when they launch their own armoured offensives? Why, then we might indeed just as well stand against an onrushing avalanche of crushing stone, for all the good our defence lines do us. I do not doubt that this missive will have dire consequences for me, but for the sake of my soldiers I have to say this. Let the xenos have the damned theldrite. It is all they have come for, and it is not worth any more good Imperial lives!"

—Last dispatch from Colonel Hogar, 41st Korlian Lancers. Entire regiment subsequently subjected to punitive execution for cowardice and dereliction of duty.

Eye of the Ancestors

The Kin of the Leagues of Votann are typically pragmatic in battle, to the point where their leaders seem almost dispassionate. This is because the calculus of risk to reward -- and resultant survival -- underpins their military strategies just as much as it does every other aspect of Kin society. This is not to say that the Kin are not bellicose in war; their soldiery are fond of bellowed oaths, grim gallows humour and booming war songs.

Rather, their forces have been known to abandon valuable positions or break off from ferocious engagements without a backward glance, should the price of victory be judged too high. There is no cowardice or panic in such decisions, only the grim acceptance that spending lives and materiel to achieve pyrrhic victories is a trade only a fool would willingly make.

Kin military doctrine emphasises a leader's ability to calmly assess enemy threats even in the midst of battle. Kin military leaders must remain stoic as they pass their gaze over the foe, determining which hostiles pose the greatest threats and thus merit prioritisation. Known as casting the "Eye of the Ancestors," this talent allows Kin war leaders to judge at a glance which enemies are the most dangerous, where enemy fortifications are weakest and what amount of resources to apply to each threat to balance success against cost.

Grudges

A Grudge is a pledge by an individual Kin, an entire Kindred or even a full league, to destroy an identified foe, no matter the cost in lives or materiel, to gain vengeance or redress an intolerable insult.

Even for the often dispassionate Kin, there are those enemies whose actions test even their great patience beyond its limits. Foes who repeatedly shame and insult the Leagues, perpetuate great horrors upon the Kin or prove thorns in their side time and again, may become the focus of a "Grudge." In such cases, the Kin appear to lose all perspective. They will not hesitate to spend countless lives and shocking quantities of materiel in the destruction of a begrudged enemy, pursuing them relentlessly even unto their own probable doom.

Kin sometimes form "Grudgebands" at such times, swearing binding oaths to quest and fight together until either the Grudge is settled or else every Kin who swore the oath is slain. To outsiders, this behaviour seems anachronistic or even hypocritical in the extreme -- a bizarre reversal of the normal, pragmatic doctrines that pervade Kin society and determine their actions. To the Kin themselves, however, the notion of Grudges is as deep-rooted and natural as breathing. To their minds, the Ancestors will judge harshly any who allow such nemeses of their people to endure.

Notable Leagues of Votann Heroes

  • Ûthar the Destined - Ûthar the Destined, often simply known as Ûthar, is perhaps the most skilled and most well-respected kâhl of the Greater Thurian League. As the most accomplished hero of the Greater Thurian league, Kâhl Ûthar is marked for greatness. Few can assess the foe as swiftly or mercilessly as Ûthar and -- once he has his enemies' measure -- he soon cuts them to pieces with the glowing plasma edge of the Blade of the Ancestors. Ûthar, who calls the Kindred of Vôrtun on the Hold World of Obsyd Gate his home, is the victor of the Deadstar Campaign and the slayer of Gorbrak the Iron Beast, yet it is said his greatest and most important deeds still lie ahead of him. After the birth of the Great Rift in the Era Indomitus, it was Ûthar who led the Thurian forces in the defence of their space from the Chaos-worshippers spilling from Warp Storm Örgvayr in the continuing conflict in the galactic core that has become known as the Battle of Örgvayr.
  • Kôrv Grudgekeeper - Kôrv Grudgekeeper is a kâhl of the Greater Thurian League. He is known to be highly contemptuous of all the other intelligent species of the galaxy. This is largely because Grudgekeeper, as his name implies, keeps a list of nemeses who he maintains a Grudge against. The Thurian kâhl seeks them out with a keen and inescapable eye. In general, no sooner has he settled a Grudge against one foe, than Grudgekeeper moves on to the next name on his long list. Currently the kâhl is leading the Oathband of his own Grudgekeeper Expedition and they have fought against the regiments of the Astra Militarum's Ventrillian Nobles, the Tyranids and the Orks.

Forces of the Leagues of Votann

Leagues of Votann Forces
Command KâhlTheynBrôkhyr Iron-masterGrimnyrEinhyr Champion
Elites Einhyr HearthguardEmbyr
Troops Hearthkyn WarriorsHearthkyn SalvagersHernkyn PioneerBrôkhyr ThunderkynCthonian BeserksIronkin
Vehicles Magna-Coil Grav BikeSagitaurHekaton Land FortressColossus
Robotic Support COG (CORVE-COGL-COG)
Heroes Ûthar the DestinedYôht GrendokKôrv Grudgekeeper


League Relics

  • Aktol's Fortress - This armour crest was the life's work of the blind Brôkhyr Aktôl Vatyk. Painstakingly wrought using conflicting harmonic abrasion fields rather than hammer blows, and shot through with a core of hyperdense stelanictite, the crest projects a complex gravitic repulsion field that can be directed by the bearer against their foes. Bludgeoned and restrained by the clashing grav-waves, the enemy is held at bay long enough for the crest's bearer and their comrades to press forward and lay them low.
  • Ancestral Crest - This armour crest is inscribed with the runes of the great Ancestor Cores, and it is only bestowed in times of great need to a legendary Kin warrior whose skills have been proven in a hundred battles. It is said that the crest acts like a mobile Fane, a node through which the wisdom and gestalt power of the Votann flows to aid the warrior in making better strategic an dtactical desicions for himself and his comrades. It is a great honour and responsibility to bring such an artefact to war, and should the bearer fall in battle, it is said the Votann themselves will wreak their vengeance upon the foe.
  • Exactor - This potent Mass Hammer was fashioned for High Kâhl Ynnôk Orkhunter by the notoriously irascible craftsman Krynn the Furious. Exactor requires its wielder to swing it at precisely the correct angle in order to get the best from the weapon -- a testament to Krynn's legendarily high expectations of all those around him. However, when it impacts correctly, Exactor unleashes a devastating shock wave of power that not even the most formidable foes can survive.
  • The First Knife - Almost every kâhl and Grimnyr carries with them a Plasma Knife. These are badges of high office, denoting that the individual speaks with the authority of the Ancestors. They are typically ceremonial -- rarely used in combat unless as a weapon of last resort. The First Knife, however, is of particular cultural significance and greater offensive use. It is believed to have been crafted by the Votann themselves during the days before the Kin came to the galactic core. Containing a unique power source and worked with script so ancient that no Kin can read it, this blade can be triggered to project a beam of laser energy that scythes through the victim at point-blank range. More than one ambushing foe or double-crossing faux ambassador has discovered, to their cost, just how deadly The First Knife can be.
  • Flâyre - This remarkable forgewrought Plasma Axe is said to contain the bound fury of a colossal solar flare, syphoned from amidst the nuclear fury of a raging star and trammelled within knotwerk energy fields. Whether this is some boast of the Brôkhyr, or how such immense energies could be contained and channelled, is unclear, but the puissant fury of Flâyre cannot be denied. The axe's plasma blade burns so bright that it is painful to look upon as it streaks through the air. It is as swift and deadly as an unleashed star-storm, and leaves nought but charred enemy corpses in its wielder's wake.
  • Forgestar - This respected relic Volkanite Disintegrator houses a unique power core that enables the weapon to maintain a constant beam of destructive energy.
  • Iron Ambassador - This exceptional Autoch Pattern Combi-bolter was named by a Brôkhyr with a typically grim "Kin" sense of humour. It has been wielded by numerous heroes against the enemies of the Leagues of Votann, and has been the last word in many a failed negotiation with obdurate foes.
  • Kâhyrm's War Plate - Constructed over the lifetime of the Master Armourer Kâhyrm, this void armour suit's war plate can withstand a punishing amount of damage.
  • Wayfarer's Grace - This one-of-a-kind Kin void suit was crafted for the famed Hernkyn adventurer Simmka Farstryd as thanks for her saving the Hold World of Hyvôk's Kindred. Incorporating ancient technological secrets interpreted from Votannic lore, Wayfarer's Grace acts as a life support system for its wearer. Monitoring their vital statistics constantly, the suit provides medical support and can even restart its wearer's stopped heart in extremis.
  • The Grey Crest - This cunningly wrought armour crest contains helical circuit threads believed to have been traded from a mysterious alien race, long since lost to the darkness between the stars. It projects a veil of obfuscatory energies able to fool both organic and artificial targetting senses, and conceal the bearer from the enemy's sights.
  • Grudge's End - Manufactured over three Terran centuries by a dedicated team of Brôkhyr and Ironkin savants, Grudge's End is not one single object. Rather, it is an entire suite of conjoined adaptor modules which can auto-adjust to integrate themselves with any forgewrought Kin bolt weapon. Introducing artificially intelligent ballistic calibrators, a hypermunition microjactory and a bewildering host of additional one-off augmentations, Grudge's End transforms the host weapon into a tool that will indeed bring about the fatal demise of many a loathed nemesis of the Kin.
  • Recyc Converter - Waste not, want not. This module extracts minerals and biomatter from the energy streams of its host weapon, usually a Volkanite Disintegrator, Ion Blaster, or Graviton Rifle, storing them in a quantum field until they are required by the Kin.
  • The Captive Abyss - It is said this arcane mobile emitter contains a captive black hole lent vengeful sentience by the Ancestors. When hurled into the midst of hated foes, it triggers a microsecond burst of its ravening gravitonic hunger and wreaks horrible carnage before falling quiescent again.
  • The Hearthfist - This gauntlet, which can replace a wielder's Mass Gauntlet or Concussion Gauntlet, contains a thermoreactive plasma core of unique design. When clenched into a fist, it begins to blaze with what is said to be the raw and furious fire of the Hearth itself. Each blow from the Hearthfist discharges furious blasts of plasmic energy that scorch and disintegrate, and it is said that those foes marked for death by the Ancestors feel the burning wrath of the Hearth worst of all.
  • The Murmuring Stave - The psychocircuitry embedded within this ancient Ancestral Warding Stave is of a unique design that enables the wielder to better access their otherworldly powers. Along with the Greater Thurian League's Blade of the Ancestors, it is said to be one of only two weapons ever fashioned through immaculate forging by the Votann themselves, though prophecy speaks of a third still to be wrought. It is said that a suitably talented Grimnyr who holds this stave hears the faint voices of the Votann themselves in his or her mind, and can interface with them and gain their guidance at will.
  • Tôrek's Shard - Ancient records suggest that a time-lost Kin craftsman named Tôrek fashioned this Plasma Knife from the stuff of the first Votann -- one of the First Ancestors and maybe even the sentience responsible for first giving the Kin life. Unsheathed and raised high, Tôrek's Shard inspires the Kin in battle as no banner or impassioned oratory ever could, driving their attacks to attain a passionate and frightening intensity.
  • Thyrikite PLate - Few substances mined from within the galactic core are as rare or dangerous to obtain as thyrikite. Occurring only within the gravitic tsunamis of the Thykus Cluster -- home to the abhorrent Skorvexi -- this substance nonetheless serves as both a perfect insulator and phenomenally resilient, lightweight armour alloy. Only once has enough thyrikite been harvested to fashion an entire suit of void armour, but that suit remains a precious relic of the Leagues of Votann to this day.
  • Wârpestryk - Hailed as the physical proof of Kin technological superiority, this incredible armour crest nonetheless has a somewhat dark reputation. None knows who fashioned it, how or when, and all attempts to replicate Wârpestryk have seen ill fate befall those who tried. Nonetheless, the crest allows its bearer to step between realspace and the Warp almost at will, crossing the battlefield in a series of flickering strides. Moreover, its mysterious inner workings project a directed field of intermingled realspace energistic and empyric interference, which fouls nearby enemy communications and seems to jam all attempts to gain a teleport fix within proximity to Wârpestryk.
  • Vôlumm's Master Artifice - The name Vôlumm is spoken with deep respect within Forges throughout the Leagues of Votann, for few Brôkhyr have ever surpassed her achievements. Her trusted Graviton Rifle -- reverently cared for over thousands of Terran years -- continues to be the finest example of hand-held graviton technology the Kin possess, able to project and maintain beams of ravening power instead of firing regular, pulsed blasts.
  • Ymmâ's Shield - It is said that the ore used in the forging of this remarkable shield was brought across the gulfs of space aboard the first Long March fleets of the Kin. Nothing like it has been seen before or since, though the Kin have searched tirelessly for fresh deposits of what appears to be a nigh-on invulnerable substance. It fell to the venerated Brôkhyr Ymmâ the Sure to fashion the unique deposit into a RAM Shield of unsurpassed resilience and perfect balance. Foes who assail the bearer of Ymmâ's Shield, usually an Einhyr Champion, prove themselves doubly foolish; not only are their efforts futile against the unbreakable bulwark of the shield itself, but striking this beloved relic in anger is a mortal insult to the entire Kin species. One who dares land such a blow is rarely permitted to keep breathing long enough to aim for a second.
  • Ythur's Vengeance - It was said of master Brôkhyr Ythur Glâureye that he held more Grudges than any other single Kin in his people's history, especially against the Orks. He put his intolerance to good use by crafting this subtly worked ocular augmetic. It provides its user with an encyclopedic record of hostile species' weak spots for them to exploit, as well as listing Ythur's endless Grudges so that others can continue to exact his vengeance on his behalf.

See Also

Game History

SpaceDwarfsCover

The cover of the Space Dwarf miniatures set produced for the 1st Edition of Warhammer 40,000.

The 1st Edition of Warhammer 40,000 was called Rogue Trader, a tabletop miniature wargame chock-full of fantasy standards drawn from Games Workshop's own Warhammer universe and reimagined in a grim, dark, futuristic, space fantasy setting. Instead of Orcs, there were Space Orks, Elves became Eldar (and then Aeldari), Ogres were Ogryn, and so on. And then there were the Space Dwarfs.

These first models were clearly Dwarfs wielding lasguns with a generous smattering of heavy weapons. Their background positioned them as miners -- the descendants of Human settlers from the Age of Technology who had evolved to survive on mineral-dense worlds with heavy gravity in the galactic core. Over the millennia, they had diverged into an Abhuman subspecies of Mankind formally named Homo sapiens rotundus, but better known to baseline Humans as "Squats" -- similar to Humans in many ways, but culturally and physiologically distinct.

Squat strongholds -- autonomous mining colonies -- formed allied leagues, with recognisable Dwarf traits from Warhammer Fantasy Battles such as ancestor worship, facial hair, a hefty dose of grumpiness, and a knack for metalwork, advanced technology and engineering projects of vast scope. A more futuristic twist was their favoured mount -- the leagues rode heavy bikes and trikes into battle, combining the aesthetics of Viking warriors and leather-clad biker gangs.

The first major evolutionary step for the Squats came in Titan Legions, a game of massive battles using tiny models at the Epic scale -- just 6 millimetres! Many of the larger units for the present tabletop game of Warhammer 40,000 have their origins here, including all those lovely Titans and Knights. It also went on to inspire modern specialty games like Adeptus Titanicus and Aeronautica Imperialis, though these are at a slightly different scale.

The Epic system brought with it an enduring enmity for the Squats with the Orks,** along with loads of machines and vehicles you could not find in the Imperium -- including gyrocopters, armoured dirigibles, land trains, and ludicrously massive siege weapons. And while they never produced Titans, ordnance like the Cyclops, the big green tank with the Gargant-killing cannon on its prow, was no less deadly.

The Warhammer Studio continued to flesh out the background of the Squats, giving the leagues a distinct aesthetic, history, and style of warfare. Where else would you find biker gang Space Dwarf industrialists piloting battle-trains?

The later years of Rogue Trader brought plenty of trikes, living ancestors (Squat psykers), and elite infantry in big, round suits called exo-armour, but while the 2nd Edition of Warhammer 40,000 offered stopgap rules for the faction in its initial boxed set, the Squats would never receive a full codex or any more new models.

Squats1

The Squats battle Orks.

For a while, however, the leagues of the Squats continued to evolve through the vividly coloured artwork of this era. These stout warriors were shown wielding more science fiction standard weapons, armour, and iconography -- but you could still see lots of golden ancestor sigils and plenty of beards, axes, and warhammers.

Homo sapiens rotundus may have started life as a sci-fi restyle of fantasy Dwarfs, but as the setting grew, they too became more unique. A galactic power in their own right, the Squat leagues were powerful enough to trade and negotiate with the Imperium on an even footing -- in fact, Imperial commissars were forbidden from executing their soldiers who served in the Astra Militarum -- and such skilled technologists that the Adeptus Mechanicus sent tech-priests to study with them, which would probably be considered tech-heresy nowadays.

And then...nothing. The Squats were not officially updated for the 3rd Edition of the Warhammer 40,000 tabletop game, and Epic came to an end. For a long period of time in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Games Workshop took the stance through its silence that the Squats had simply never existed -- older republished novels were edited to remove all references to the Squats. In other cases, books were not republished due to the stories featuring Squat characters or other obsolete species.

According to the former Games Workshop designer Jervis Johnson on a forum post in 2004 in response to the endless speculation of fans about why the faction had disappeared from the game and its universe, the Squats would probably never be a major Warhammer 40,000 faction again, rather remaining in the background of both the tabletop miniatures wargame and the universe's fiction.

Jervis explained that this was largely because the Games Workshop designers of the late 1990s eventually regretted transferring the Squats over from Warhammer and never felt that the Dwarf-like species really had a clear identity or fit very well in the background lore of the Warhammer 40,000 universe as it developed over the decades.

SquatSigil

A sigil representing the original Squats; the similarities to the sigil for the Leagues of Votann is clear.

The disappearance of the Squat army from the game rules was eventually addressed by a background story explaining that the subspecies' homeworlds had been devoured by the Tyranids. The story went that the Squats had been virtually destroyed, and the few remaining homeworlds were annexed by the Imperium over several hundred Terran years after the attacks. Only a few scattered and embittered remnants of Squats survived throughout the Imperium.

However, the Warhammer 40,000: Rulebook for the 6th Edition of the game reinserted the Squats into the universe's background when it explicitly named them as an Abhuman subspecies officially recognised by the Imperium.

The Demiurg, a minor xenos species later allied with the T'au, were also an attempted revitalisation of the Squats' original "Space Dwarf" concept that was better integrated into the Warhammer 40,000 background, though the race never received much expansion beyond the appearance of several of its starships in the Battlefleet Gothic tabletop specialty game of starship combat.

Despite this, certain miniature companies continued to produce their own Space Dwarf models to meet the continued interest in the Squats, and some players even converted the rules of Warhammer 40,000 to allow them to play. However popular this trend proved to be, the official ruling from Games Workshop was that only official Warhammer 40,000 factions could be used in the tabletop game.

Another solution favoured by fans at this time was to field an Astra Militarum army made up of Squat models, which was allowed under then-current rules.

Finally, in 2018, following the introduction of the highly successful 8th Edition of the Warhammer 40,000 game and a decision by the Warhammer Studio to reintroduce and update older concepts from the game's past, Games Workshop formally reintroduced Squats into the setting with a Squat character and miniature in Necromunda: Underhive.

On April 1, 2022, Games Workshop announced that the Squats would be returning as a fully playable faction to Warhammer 40,000. Unfortunately, because the announcement was made on April Fools' Day, many fans believed it to simply be a joke on the company's part. In fact, the next day, April 2, Games Workshop published a second notification on its Warhammer Community website announcing that in fact the Squats were truly returning as a fully-fleshed out faction in the 9th Edition of Warhammer 40,000 and would be known as the "Leagues of Votann."

The fruits of that decision are now available for all to see above on this page, and throughout this wiki.

Sources

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