Manual Siege Warriors - A Fantasy Anthology

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Blind also will be the selection of those who will pay the blood price for the greater failure of your record. One in ten of the Legion, determined by lottery, was put to death without honour, a deed carried out by each Legionary's own comrades with their bare hands. At this bloody edict some within the Imperial Court protested, believing that the Emperor had given absolute power of a Space Marine Legion to a madman, while others, more guarded in their criticism, opined only that command had been given too soon to the Primarch -- unused as he was to the ways of the Imperium.

It was a spur of discord between the two Primarchs that, though later eclipsed by other rancours and feuds among the Emperor's sons, would be one that neither would ever forget.

All such criticism the Emperor silenced. To those who survived the IV th Legion's self-decimation, the lesson was plain: such was to be the rule of Perturabo, ruthless and unforgiving, and without favour or preference. Death would be the price of failure in Perturabo's service and war was to him a binary equation. Their sin was not that they had failed in the Great Crusade's service -- for by no measure had this been the case, but instead that they had not reached their full potential.

It was not enough for Perturabo that they were merely superior, their fault lay in that among the Legions they were not already supreme.

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Perturabo demanded that his Legion would be a peerless engine of war, and he immediately set about fashioning it into the weapon he desired it to be, a weapon whose edge he would first test against the rest of the Meratara Cluster at whose edge the Olympia Majoris star system sat. The first major engagement of the IV th Legion under the direct command of their Primarch was the attack against a foe who would sorely test the Legion's mettle and open the campaign to bring the Meratara Cluster into Imperial Compliance.

Taking his newly constituted Expeditionary Fleet, Perturabo drove straight for the heart of the cluster and the hostile power he knew resided there. On Olympia the enemy Perturabo sought had been little more than legend, but the last time their shadow had fallen on that world, their coming had led to the slaughter and enslavement of tens of thousands before their demanded tribute was paid.

They were the self-styled "Black Judges" -- self-appointed arbiters of human purity, life and death. Twisted and withered creatures that had once been human in ages past, they had extended their lifespans into Terran millennia with the help of technology as ancient as it was dark. Now their shrivelled and time-ravaged forms were encased in mechanised war machines controlled by cybernetic implants.

In order to continue to live, they required regular infusions of fresh human genetic material acquired by an agonisingly fatal extraction process, and from their base upon a barren, ravine-hollowed moon known as the "Rock of Judgement," they held sway over a dozen nearby human-inhabited worlds through terror, offering a devil's bargain of protection from xenos assault in return for a regular tribute of the young and healthy.

The IV th Legion, reeling from its punishment at its new master's hands, was shamed into a desperate desire to prove itself to its Primarch, and it was to be the Black Judges that were to suffer its pent-up hatred and wrath. The orbital assault on the Rock of Judgement was a direct and brutal affair. Well-defended by defence laser batteries and swarms of drone-fighter craft and the Black Judges' own Warp -capable battleships, it had withstood marauders and vengeful enemies for millennia, but against the fury of the IV th Legion it could not prevail.

Smashing through the blockade line of warships heedless of the losses they incurred, with a score of Legion Strike Cruisers and a dozen Battle Barges burned from stem-to-stern, the Legion grappled their foe at close-quarters, launching crippling boarding actions and barrages of Melta warhead torpedoes at point-blank range. With the line broken, the IV th Legion fleet pushed through, using the armoured prows of their largest capital ships and the bulwark Void Shields of siege frigates to weather the storm of ground fire and force a landing.

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Although their true technology carried with it much of the strength of Mankind's mastery over the stars before the Age of Strife , the Black Judges were few in number, even accounting for the tens of thousands of sable-robed Accusators and functionaries gene-bred to serve them, and so relied heavily upon static defences and automated sentry guns for protection. Spearheaded by Land Raider phalanxes and Shadowsword companies, the IV th Legion surged forward, methodically eliminating all resistance in a storm of energy blasts, while behind them came wave after wave of mobile siege guns and artillery whose pulverising shellfire shattered and brought down mountain-faces, burying gun-bastions below in choking rubble.

Such was the apocalyptic firepower of this rolling advance that it obliterated the Black Judges' vaunted defences metre by metre, erasing them from existence. It was when the Space Marines smashed their way into the lightless inner sanctums of the Night Courts at the heart of the towering citadels of obsidian that the bitterest fighting took place. Swept by batteries of lethal neutron rays and assailed by suicidal mobs of Accusators armed with powered chain-hammers able to split even Legiones Astartes battle-plate, the casualties mounted, but the IV th Legion did not falter.

Once the fanatics had been slaughtered, the leading elements of the assault wave forced their way bloodily on through abyssal chambers of nightmarish surgical theatres and abhorrent instruments of the "justice" these debased oppressors enacted, to their final confrontation with the Black Judges themselves. Sustained by their dark sciences, each of the Black Judges' armoured life support frames were all but impervious to Bolter fire, while their razor scourges and ray cannon made each the equal of a Legiones Astartes Dreadnought in firepower -- and there were hundreds of them.

Against these mechanoid killers the warriors of the IV th Legion would not give ground, although the Legionaries themselves fell in droves, cut into bloody hunks of meat or incinerated in the molten coffins of their Power Armour. The darkness soon became a storm of muzzle flash and thunder, pierced by the screams of the dying and the high-pitched screeching of diseased minds that had lived far beyond human sanity for centuries.

As the battle raged on, the Legionaries took to using mounds of their own dead as cover from the sweeping hellish directed energy rays, and rallied again and again to charge the blackly glittering judgement engines, suffering the Black Judges' murderous fury to plant Krak Grenades or discharge point-blank Melta blasts to bring their enemies down. It was then that Perturabo struck. Having observed the unfolding battle, his superhuman intellect had discerned patterns and vulnerability amid the chaos and din of war, and had calculated the precise point at which to attack to the greatest effect.

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The Primarch himself struck the ranks of the Black Judges like a thunderbolt, throwing them into disarray. Like a vengeful god he ploughed into the heart of them, blasting and burning them, ripping their machine-frames apart and tearing out the withered bodies from within with his own gauntleted hands. As the Black Judges reeled in shock and sought to realign their counterattack against this new and terrible threat, the gears of Perturabo's plan turned and the elite heavy weapons support units of the IV th Legion, already known by the informal title of " Havocs ", advanced in precisely coordinated attack patterns that predicted their foes' response with preternatural accuracy.

Isolating and blindsiding the Black Judges, the Havocs advanced implacably and ended their baleful rule, pronouncing sentence of their own with crossfire storms of Autocannon shells and plasma bolts. By Perturabo's design the enemy was crushed without mercy and their domains were stripped of every valuable resource and technology; wreckage and weapons flowed to Olympia and the Black Judges' long-guarded secrets fell also to the newly renamed Iron Warriors and their master, who shared them with the Mechanicum in return for their aid. With the world stripped of its resources, the orbital shipyards of the Rock of Judgement, themselves relics of the lost human age of interstellar conquest , were finally set in orbit afresh around Olympia and set to work fashioning a new generation of warships under Perturabo's seal.

After Perturabo overthrew the vaunted "Black Judges" and claimed their once-held domain for the Imperium, he purged the xenos Ecto-Saurids of Verikhonia and subjugated the Renegade Knight -fiefdom of Lyxos, completing his conquest of the cluster. In this last conflict, Perturabo's Legion ended by force a schism that had lasted for millennia back into the Age of Strife between the fragmented empire and its former masters in the Mechanicum , winning the Legion much favour with the lords of Mars.

This period was for the IV th Legion a winnowing; a time of trials and testing at their Primarch's hand. With calculated forethought and savage experiment, Perturabo remade the Legion to his own image -- an image not echoing the Olympian or Terran ideal -- but one fashioned purely from his own bleak and unflinchingly ruthless psyche.

At the end of the Meratara Cluster campaign, the IV th Legion of old was no more, and the Iron Warriors had been forged from blood and fire in their place. By the time Perturabo returned again to Olympia with his renamed force, the machinery of his plans was well into effect.

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In alliance with the Mechanicum, new orbital shipyards and foundries burned with frenetic activity. Many had been torn from dead orbits around conquered stars, dragged to Olympia and refitted and expanded to his Legion's purpose. The worlds of the Meratara Cluster too now paid their tribute of flesh and blood to the Lord of Iron to feed his Legion's hunger for fresh warriors, weapons and munitions. All was by Perturabo's hand and design. In the crucible of war, the Iron Warriors had undergone its reshaping, with the changes that had occurred seen in many ways to have amplified what was already present in the IV th Legion rather than changing it beyond recognition; where once the Legion had been ruthless in its willingness to accept losses in return for victory, now it was utterly driven to the point where such considerations were as beneath it as mortal fear.

War had become a deadly equation which the Iron Warriors were supremely suited to solve; a relentlessly unyielding engine of war, a beast of steel and fire which swept worlds clean and devoured whole armies. At the head of a newly constituted force, the th Expeditionary Fleet, into which Perturabo drew the bulk of his Legion's strength, the Primarch had command of a force which quickly became the battering ram of the Great Crusade. As they fought alongside each of their fellow Legions in turn, they gained an unmatched reputation for brutal efficiency in battle, mastery of armoured warfare and as artillerists without peer among the Legions.

It was said of the Iron Warriors that there was no fortress built by the hand of humanity or that of the xenos they could not smash down, no stronghold they could not storm and no army they could not drown in its own blood through shot and shell. The wedge that had been hammered between the Iron Warriors and the other Space Marine Legions, however, was only driven home further as time passed, and resentment, pride and paranoia gathered in the hearts of many within the IV th Legion.

By his grim methods and savage example, Perturabo had awoken in his warriors a reflection of his own dark soul, and within them his own suspicions, malevolent distrust and callous indifference to life grew alongside the ruthless determination, cold intellect and strength he wished to unlock there. It is then perhaps not unsurprising, given the IV th Legion's predilection for open battle, its employment in siege assault -- the most dangerous and unpredictable of all forms of line warfare -- and its willingness at every level from its Primarch downwards to accept attrition as the price of victory, that the Iron Warriors are estimated in many sources to have suffered the highest overall number of casualties over time of any of the Legions in the Great Crusade.

It is also similarly a testament to them and the cold and cruel genius of their Primarch, that such losses were routinely absorbed by the Legion without serous lasting depreciation of the Iron Warriors' strategic fighting power and that high casualties rarely resulted in defeat for the IV th Legion.

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However, despite their genetically enhanced resilience to mental trauma and psycho-indoctrination, it is believed that such a continuous exposure to loss and destruction worked a slow and bitter corrosion on the Legion's psyche. Perturabo and his Legion sought no friends or allies amongst those they served with, save perhaps the agents of the Mechanicum who aided them in the pursuit of ever more powerful and efficient means of waging war. In their fellow Legions they saw weaknesses bred by self-deceit, lack of discipline, false mysticism and vanity, and they also saw insults and slights by them, both real and imagined.

Even many factions of the Mechanicum, to whom Perturabo's technological intellect was a wonder, did not trust him or his Legion fully, dangerously self-sufficient and adept as they were, and ignorant of the doctrines of the Omnissiah 's faith. To the forces of the Excertus Imperialis -- the hosts of the Imperial Army and its auxiliaries -- the Iron Warriors' repute was a dark one indeed.

More than any other Legion, the Iron Warriors were seen as not only willing to use the lives of merely human auxiliaries as a strategic resource, but as deliberate expenditure, as cannon fodder to deplete an enemy's firepower, in sacrificial waves by the thousand to bring out a foe from their defences, or simply to gauge an enemy's strengths by observing how fast they could annihilate them. Such repeated incidents only served to further taint the hated epithet the "Corpse Grinders" among the common soldiers of the Great Crusade.

Open mutiny, put down with predictably thorough slaughter, grew increasingly frequent in war zones where Excertus Auxillia were under the Iron Warriors' command until, by the Warmaster Horus' edict, a standing order was effected to ensure that the bulk of such troops given to the Iron Warriors' command were to be either indentured criminals or enslaved non-Compliants to ameliorate the corrosive effect on wider morale.

By the last solar decades of the Great Crusade, rivalries as well as often mutual simmering disdain, such as the antipathy between the Iron Warriors and Raven Guard Legion brought on by friction during the Icessunder War, and an increasingly bitter rivalry between the Iron Warriors and the Imperial Fists , characterised the Iron Warriors' relationship with its fellow Legions.

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Mashogg, their part was often treated with indifference or guarded disdain by the IV th Legion's contemporaries. In this latter incident for example, although before Perturabo and the Iron Warriors' arrival in the war zone, Overdog Mashogg's vast orbital fortifications had previously repulsed attack after attack from both the Space Wolves and the White Scars Legions. Perturabo, whose plan succeeded at last in breaking the line and allowing for the Orks ' slaughter, is recorded in the contemporary chronicles of his brother-Legions only as a nameless "comrade-in-arms.

This major re-alignment in the deployment of the Great Crusade saw the renewal and issuing of a string of directives and disposition orders, some from Terra and others from the Warmaster. These orders continued to bleed the Iron Warriors Legion and scatter a good part of its strength across a myriad of splinter Expeditionary Fleets, thankless sieges and garrison postings in the most dangerous, forlorn and isolated corners of the ever-widening Imperium.

Meanwhile, Perturabo's own th Expeditionary Fleet was driven into the teeth of deadly foe after deadly foe, neither asking for, nor being sent reinforcements or additional resources, save for those it could itself generate and acquire. Perturabo, bitter but iron in his word, complied. Such events in retrospect only served to foment and amplify the resentment and discord within the IV th Legion and split it from the Imperium it served, and increasingly to derange its warriors in the face of some of the worst horrors the Great Crusade would ever face.

Indeed, such may have very well been Horus' plan.