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The Imperial Fists

Submitted By: Date: March 13, 2004, 08:16:47 PM Views: 5036
Summary: The Imperial Fists are one of the most respected Chapters of the Adeptus Astartes. Not only is their loyalty to the Emperor acknowledged as absolute, but their standing with the institutions of the Imperium is unparalleled. Their reputation with the enemies of the Imperium is a greater source of satisfaction to them though. They have gained battle honours against eight major alien races, been instrumental in holding the Imperium together through the darkest of times, and have the honour of being one of the Chapters to have defended the Imperial Palace in the greatest battle of the Horus Heresy.


The Great Crusade had reached the Ice Hives of Inwit when Rogal Dorn presented himself to the Emperor for the first time. He arrived at the helm of Phalanx, the great mobile station that was to become the Imperial Fists' fortress-monastery. The ship was his gift to the Emperor and its like had not been seen since the Dark Age of Technology. The size of a small moon, its foredeck could dock a dozen cruisers and its superstructure was a towering forest of spires interlaced with flying buttresses. It shone like a small star, a precious treasure and a momentous portent in the days of the Crusade. The Emperor duly welcomed Dorn and appointed him to the command of the 7th Space Marine Legion - the Imperial Fists, returning Phalanx to serve as their Fortress-Monastery.

The 7th Legion had been formed on Terra as evidenced by its earliest battle honour 'Roma', now only discernable on a ceramite icon too precious even to be displayed in the Inner Reclusium. The 7th Legion had recruited heavily on Inwit and over 70% of its strength were aspirants. The Imperial Fists were therefore a rarity in that Battle Brothers and Primarch were united very early in their service to the Emperor and quickly formed an unbreakable bond. Born from the same gene-stock, Primarch and Legion had the same uncompromising self-discipline and total commitment to order.

The handful of Terran Battle Brothers brought a tradition of honour duels that was readily embraced by the Legion as a whole. Brothers still duel with swords following the same conventions. No man knows the true age of this form of ritual combat but it binds the brothers together, giving and receiving honour and remembering their Terran heritage even if far from their home.

The Legion's early actions were extremely successful; while the Great Crusade pushed forward, the Imperial Fists acted as the strategic reserve of the Emperor's forces. Able to deploy quickly and reliably where and when required, the Imperial Fists struck the decisive blow in many battles. Their detailed planning made them especially efficient at sieges and their resolute endurance made them superb city fighters. They remained the Emperor's Praetorians throughout the campaign and when he returned to Terra to build a capital from which to rule an Empire of a million worlds, the Emperor took Rogal Dorn with him. Dorn was charged with the task of fortifying the Imperial Palace, an honour that did not go unnoticed by the other Primarchs.

In all this time Rogal Dorn had sought no favour and exemplified the qualities of truth, courage and humility more than any other Primarch. Although some of the other Primarchs resented his closeness to the Emperor, most held him in high esteem. On Macragge, home of the Ultramarines, Dorn's statue is one of the four Primarchs that stand alongside Guilliman's in their Hall of Heroes. Jaghatai Khan is shown gifting Dorn with a dozen of his finest stallions as a gesture of eternal brotherhood shortly after the defeat of Horus in the illuminated preface of the Apocrypha of Skaros. Dorn's rivalry with Perturabo, Primarch of the Iron Warriors, was the most marked exception. One of Dorn's qualities was that he always, without fail, told the truth. On Schravann, the Iron Warriors won a great victory when they stormed the final refuge of the Badoon. They breached the defences and held while the other Legions carried the city beyond. During the victory feast, Horus proclaimed Perturabo the greatest master of siege warfare in the Crusade. Fulgrim, Primarch of the Emperor's Children then asked Dorn whether he thought even the defences of the Imperial Palace could resist the Iron Warriors. Dorn considered carefully and then said that he regarded the defences as being proof against any assault if well-manned. Perturabo flew into a rage and unleashed a torrent of vitriol at Dorn, accusations so unfounded that the onlookers were dumbstruck. After this the two rarely spoke, neither Legion serving in the same campaign again. The Imperial Fists were ever at the Emperor's side and the Iron Warriors were part of Horus' vanguard.

After the Imperial Fists won a major victory against the Orks on the ash wastes of Necromunda, the Hive Lords consented to recruits being drawn from their population in gratitude. A Fortress-Chapel was duly consecrated but the Imperial Fists were there as esteemed guests, not masters. Rogal Dorn asked no special rights on the worlds where the Fists recruited. Some Primarchs, such as the increasingly mercurial Perturabo, took every opportunity to garrison a world and claim its tithes. Dorn is famously recorded as saying "I want recruits not vassals," and was always satisfied to keep his Legion as a military unit with none of the civil responsibilities that came with having a home world.

The Horus Heresy

When the drop site massacres on Istvaan revealed the full extent of Horus' treachery, the Emperor, accompanied by the faithful Rogal Dorn, was on Terra, determined to prevent Horus claiming the throne of the Imperium without a challenge. Along with the White Scars and the Blood Angels, the Imperial Fists put up a heroic defence of the Imperial Palace that has since passed into legend. Then, when all hope seemed lost, they accompanied the Emperor in his last battle aboard Horus' battle barge. It fell to Dorn to discover the bodies of the Emperor, Horus and Sanguinius after the final drama had run its course. His grief was immense. Until that point Dorn had been true, noble and enduring, but now he became an avenging son. While the Ultramarines maintained order within the Imperium, the Imperial Fists hunted down the traitors, levelling fortress after fortress. Dorn led them, dressed in the black of mourning, his customary mercy set aside until the guilty were punished. While others shaped the new Imperium, Dorn immersed himself in implacable justice. It was rumoured that he saw the Emperor's death as his personal failure and his crusade as penance. After all, were the Traitors not his brothers? Whatever the cause, Rogal Dorn was absent from the highest councils until he was summoned back to Terra when Roboute Guilliman, Primarch of the Ultramarines presented his Codex Astartes as the future of the Space Marines.

Dorn was shaken, his quest for redemption had blinded him to changing times. He could not see why humanity would not trust the Imperial Fists because of what the Traitor Legions had done. Without the fire of battle to engage them, Rogal Dorn and the Imperial Fists hovered on the brink - the Emperor was gone and now it seemed that their very brotherhood was to be sundered. At this time of uncertainty, the Iron Warriors issued a clear challenge to the Imperial Fists by building a formidable fortress and daring them to attack.


The Iron Cage

Imperial Fist Chaplains teach that Dorn found strength in meditation. For seven days he resisted the pain glove until at last he was gifted with a vision of the Emperor. The Imperial Fists had wavered in their faith, thinking the Emperor gone, but they knew that he was still watching them from the Golden Throne. The Imperial Fists could no longer serve the Emperor that had been but they knew they must still be true to the Emperor that was. Rogal Dorn decreed that the Imperial Fists would symbolically enter the pain glove as a Legion and emerge redeemed as a Chapter. Dorn knew that many of his Battle Brothers did not wish to found new Chapters as the Ultramarines were eager to do. There would be far too many left for one of the new thousand strong Chapters. Leaving Phalanx, he led these die-hards against the Iron Warriors in their lair.

His doubts gone, Dorn focused on the enemy ahead. Perturabo was a master of fortification whose writings had been retained by Guilliman in his Codex. Dorn had always been his match though and, what was more, his honest warrior's soul was indignant. The Iron Warriors had rebelled and lost. Their master was dead and the Emperor still ruled. Yet still they dared raise their heretical banners over another Imperial world as if they had some right to be there. Dorn would not tolerate this. Without his customary caution and planning, Dorn led his men into the heart of the Iron Warrior defences. The battle should have favoured the treacherous trench-fighters, but the Imperial Fists endured. They countered every ambush and fought their way out of every trap. Rogal Dorn was a colossus who personally turned back attack after attack. Ammunition expended, Brothers fought in half-flooded trenches with combat knives, giving and expecting no quarter. Eventually it became apparent that the Iron Warriors could not finish them. For all their skill and ferocity, the Iron Warriors lacked the faith to make the ultimate sacrifice that victory demanded. While they paused, the Ultramarines intervened; Guilliman had decided that Perturabo's destruction was not worth the loss of Rogal Dorn and had brought his Chapter to drive off the Iron Warriors.

Cleansed by their sacrifice, the Imperial Fists immediately began their reorganisation. For the next two decades they went into retreat, their successor Chapters taking to the field in their stead. Dorn used this time to retrain the Chapter to embrace all aspects of the Codex Astartes. When they later emerged, their adherence to the Codex was matched only by the Ultramarines.

The New Imperium

Early in their reorganisation, Space Marines from the Imperial Fists departed to found the Black Templars and the Crimson Fists. The willingness of Dorn to put his initial misgivings aside and embrace the Codex Astartes reassured the High Lords of Terra. Because they were not tied to a home world and had a mobile Chapter Fortress, the Imperial Fists could be more responsive to calls for help. In particular, Rogal Dorn was more amenable to requests from other institutions for assistance than other Primarchs, and this built a valuable store of goodwill. When the Age of Apostasy engulfed the Imperium none of the protagonists were willing to risk their good relations with the Chapter, which continued to conduct a campaign against the Ebon League unaffected. Often the Imperial Fists were able to unify the rival factions to face a local threat which would have otherwise found them divided and vulnerable.

Rogal Dorn outlived many of his brother Primarchs and each loss saddened him greatly. Also, as fewer Primarchs remained, each began to attract unhealthy respect. With the Emperor on Terra, some distant systems began to deify the Primarchs they encountered. To Dorn, only the Emperor was worthy of this attention and he feared the consequences. However, sacrifice came easily to Dorn...

Soon after the disappearance of Corax, Primarch of the Raven Guard, the Imperial Fists were asked to help against a Black Crusade bludgeoning its way through the Cadian Gate. Phalanx and the majority of the Chapter were committed to shadowing the movements of Ulthwe, the Eldar craftworld, and could not be spared. Rogal Dorn managed to piece together three Companies to join the Cadian campaign, which he led himself. The Black Crusade threatened to envelop Cadia, and the Imperial Navy had failed to see the threat until it was too late. With his infallible sense of timing, Rogal Dorn, with three Strike Cruisers, surprised the heretic anchorage in the Pelenos Belt before they could strike. The Imperial Fists force struck at the centre of the Black Crusade, their Thunderhawks wreaking tremendous damage on the unprotected troop ships while Imperial Fists Space Marines teleported aboard the largest warships before they could raise their shields. Although the powerful Chaos armada was able to overwhelm the Strike Cruisers one by one, they were unable to deal with the Imperial Fists assault teams. Rampaging through the enemy vessels, the boarding parties sought out the engine rooms and succeeded in disabling many warp drives. Their tasks accomplished, the boarders would call in Thunderhawks and move on to another vessel. Some managed to use their victims' own teleporters to move on and a few even captured batteries long enough to redirect their fire against the other Chaos ships. The uneven battle could end only one way, but Rogal Dorn was determined to inflict every last grain of damage, whatever the cost. He made his final stand aboard the crippled Sword of Sacrilege, a Despoiler class Battleship that had been rammed by the last Imperial Fist Cruiser. The final report by the serving Chief Librarian commended their souls to the Emperor before Dorn led a desperate attack on the Sword's bridge.

There was no Chaos attack on Cadia. The Imperial Navy arrived in force while the Traitors were still licking their wounds. Released by the sudden disappearance of Ulthwe, Phalanx and the Imperial Fists led the Imperial counter-strike. They caught the Chaos fleet in the midst of repairs and routed it decisively. Even without their Primarch, the Imperial Fists were able to get to the right place at the right time. They boarded the Sword of Sacrilege before it could flee and recovered what remained of Rogal Dorn. His engraved skeletal hand continues to be maintained in stasis, their holiest icon, and serves as a constant reminder of the commitment expected of a Space Marine.


The Imperial Fists gene-seed is very stable and has never exhibited signs of mutation. They have, however, lost the use of some of the more minor genetic enhancements of the Space Marines. Specifically they no longer possess the sus-an membrane that allows the Space Marine to enter a state of suspended animation. Neither do they have a Betchers gland, which allows a Space Marine to spit corrosive poison at a foe.

With the exception of a peculiar and unexplained need to scrimshaw the bones of past Battle Brothers when off duty, they have exhibited no weaknesses. One trait that has attracted scrutiny is the practice of using a device called the pain glove to punish infractions. Named after a more ancient device, the pain glove is actually an all-encompassing tunic of electrofibres suspended in a steel gibbet. The errant Space Marine is placed entirely within the device and kept conscious while waves of pain wash through him. Through this ordeal, the miscreant learns to focus past the pain and strengthen his link with the Primarch. However, the Chapter tends to use the sanction with unusual frequency for a unit whose discipline is legendary. Considering the circumstances of Rogal Dorn's eventual death, it is clear that the Imperial Fists have a drive for self-sacrifice that they must continually battle to overcome.

Combat Doctrine

Initially, the Imperial Fists were an inflexible formation; each Company had an identical organisation and Company Commanders tended to be unimaginative. Overall planning was excellent, however, and this, coupled with the unshakeable determination of the individual Fists, made them an excellent assault formation against static defences. Throughout the Great Crusade, the Imperial Fists would be held in reserve waiting while other Legions pinned the enemy in position and identified the keystone of their defence. Inevitably, that position would then be shattered by the Fists. They were equally valuable when resolutely blocking, and often totally defeated enemy breakthroughs. The Legion had a willingness to fight until they won which few opponents could match. Rogal Dorn led from the front, a tireless warrior who, having set the strategy for a battle, would unerringly place himself in the most critical engagements.

In the immediate aftermath of the Heresy, the Imperial Fists became noticeably fiercer in their approach -attacking with virtually no reconnaissance and fighting on when a tactical withdrawal would have been wiser. With their adoption of the Codex Astartes, this tendency was less evident, although their determination was undiminished. Some of the more fanatical Battle Brothers had departed to become Black Templars - a Chapter on permanent crusade. Many of the more recent initiates, less rooted in the traditions and philosophy of the Fists, had departed to found the Crimson Fists. They quickly developed a reputation and a legacy of their own which was also a source of pride for the Imperial Fists. After the carnage of the Iron Cage, what remained was a hardened, veteran force fully able to embrace the concepts of the Codex Astartes.

Alongside the Ultramarines, the Imperial Fists have become the epitome of Codex doctrine. All ranks are able to make tactical decisions and are encouraged to act on initiative. The Imperial Fists combine all arms in flexible balanced battle groups each of which can present an opponent with a diversity of threats then press their attack so swiftly that the foe is overwhelmed before he can react. They retain their traditional skills in urban and siege warfare, although they are quite willing to engage and defeat the enemy in open battle. They will use fortifications on the defensive, but only after all more aggressive options have been exhausted. Their only weakness is perhaps a reluctance to accept the possibility of defeat that sometimes blinds them to risk.

First pronounced by the Chaplains and then repeated by the Battle Brothers before going into action

"Primarch - Progenitor, to your glory and the glory of Him on Earth".

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