An Imperial Knight is a small combat walker that is one-man version of a Titan and is smaller than even the smallest class of true Titan, the Warhound-class Scout Titan utilised by the Titan Legions. Knights normally deploy in squadrons comprised of several of these war machines. The most common type of a Knight is about nine metres tall, with its head serving as the cockpit. Knights are the smallest and weakest of Mechanicus walkers, but they still are formidable and fearsome machines, all armed with an array of weapons beyond the power of even the strongest of Space Marines to bear.
Thousands of standard years before the rise of the Imperium, Mankind reached out to the stars and settled many far away worlds. Among the apparatus of colonisation were formidable war machines known as Imperial Knights, which existed to protect the settlers from any threat. Over the millennia, the pilots of these massive war suits have established a rich culture, noble houses each sworn to the defence of their homeworld, bound by oaths of fealty to the Golden Throne of Terra and the Adeptus Mechanicus of Mars. Imperial Knights are colossal war machines that tower over the battlefield. They are propelled into battle by powerful servos and have the power to kick over tanks and crush soldiers into mulch. Vulnerable limbs and joints are protected by sweeping armour plates of adamantium and supported by an incorporated Ion Shield which responds to the thought-commands of its noble pilot.
Long before the rise of the Emperor and the birth of the Imperium, humanity reached out to the stars, eager to occupy new worlds and expand its burgeoning empire. Vast colonisation ships carried eager human settlers, along with all the resources they might require, and landed on far-flung, often isolated worlds. With the onset of the Age of Strife, also sometimes referred to as Old Night, interstellar travel to many of these human-settled worlds was made impossible due to the massive Warp Storms caused by the birth of the foul Chaos God Slaanesh during the Fall of the Eldar.
During the latter years of this tumultuous age, the Mechanicum of Mars began sending out many starships that made use of sublight drives to explore the galaxy in search of Standard Template Construct (STC) technologies on lost human colony worlds. In the course of their travels, these slow-moving exploratory expeditions discovered large clusters of human-settled star systems that had once belonged to the ancient interstellar human confederacy that had existed during the Dark Age of Technology. But these worlds had regressed during the Age of Strife to become Feudal Worlds possessed of a pre-industrial, feudal culture dominated by castes of warrior aristocrats.
These nobles, called the Imperial Knights, welcomed the Tech-priests to their planets, and saw the Mechanicum as saviours who could return to them the knowledge and advanced technologies of their ancestors. The Tech-priests of Mars settled amongst these star systems, which they named the Knight Worlds, and preferred to place their outposts on planets that possessed a good base of strategic minerals, which could be used as the foundation for the creation of advanced industries. The Mechanicum's representatives established full diplomatic and commercial relations with the Knights and were also very interested in the ruins of once advanced cities that existed on many of the Knight Worlds, where a knowledgeable scavenger could sometimes recover very useful pieces of lost technology. The Knights provided Mechanicum settlements with the manpower and military force required to drive off incursions by Orks or Eldar Exodites and the Mechanicum in return provided the Knight Worlds with their advanced technology and the skills needed to rebuild their lost civilisations.
In time, the planets colonised by the Mechanicum were transformed into powerful bastions of industry and advanced technology that are known today as Forge Worlds. The Tech-priests and the Knights became mutually dependent, and with the Mechanicum cut off from Mars during the Age of Strife, each of the Forge Worlds created its own stellar empire consisting of the Forge World and its surrounding Knight Worlds.The Knights absorbed all that the Tech-priests had to teach and in time their planets became technologically sophisticated industrial societies once more, though they retained many cultural characteristics of their feudal pasts. Since the Tech-priests provided their technology only to the nobility that ruled each Knight World, these lords used their monopoly over the new knowledge to maintain the essentially feudal character of their societies even as industry returned and science advanced once more. Despite the limitations of Warp travel during this period, many of the Forge Worlds managed to retain limited contact with the other Cult Mechanicus outposts across the galaxy and with Mars itself using the sublight starships that had brought them out into the galaxy in the first place, though these journeys could take many Terran centuries.
The same pattern as described above would be replicated by the Mechanicum during the Great Crusade and perhaps even afterwards. Forward supply stations and other settlements would grow to become fully-fledged Forge Worlds, and the planets surrounding them would be colonised by the inhabitants of the Knight Worlds. The most important technology that the Tech-priests provided to their Knight World clients were the great robotic war machines that themselves soon became known as "Knights," as they were viewed as the ultimate embodiment of the ancient mounted warrior. These war engines were much smaller than true Titans and could be piloted by only a single man, but they were well-suited to the highly-mobile, heavy cavalry-centric warfare preferred by the aristocracy of the Knight Worlds. In the past these warrior nobles had clashed with each other in honourable combat upon their horses -- now they could still face each other with honour, but did so from the cockpits of their war engines, their minds cybernetically neuro-linked to the machine's systems through Mind Impulse Unit implants in their spines and heads.
When the Age of Strife finally ended in the 30th Millennium and the Emperor of Mankind's alliance with the Mechanicum in the Treaty of Mars created the Imperium of Man, the Knights were incorporated into the armed forces of the Mechanicum and were even deployed for a time to aid the Imperium in the conquests of the Great Crusade after ca. 800.M30. But the Knights were never as powerful or effective on the battlefield as their massive Titan counterparts, and over time Imperial commanders began to make use of the Knights far more infrequently. Eventually, most of the Knight Houses were ordered to remain on their homeworlds and the Forge Worlds they owed fealty to in order to serve as reserve forces for the Mechanicum. Knight squadrons were called up to serve alongside the Titan Legions only in certain situations where their greater mobility was a true asset. During the Horus Heresy in the early 31st Millennium, when the fighting spread to the Mechanicum as it broke into Loyalist and Traitor factions just like the rest of the Imperium's military forces, the Knights played a more prominent role in the battles between the Mechanicum and its Dark Mechanicus counterpart. A number of Knight Houses came to the worship of the Ruinous Powers during the Horus Heresy, and supported the Warmaster Horus and the Dark Mechanicus in their war against the False Emperor. When the Heresy ended, these Traitor Houses presumably fled into the Eye of Terror alongside the rest of the Forces of Chaos, and remain active to this day, now twisted and changed by the mutating power of the Warp. In modern times, the Knight Houses that remained loyal to the Imperium still serve and are occasionally called to fight alongside the Titan Legion of their parent Forge World, but in these times they act only as second-line forces.
The descendants of the early pioneers who settled their respective worlds were found in the knightly houses of the Imperial Knights. These dynasties of nobility evolved from the need to protect the early human settlers of the Knight Worlds from indigenous species discovered on their alien planets. When the original settlers arrived on distant worlds they cannibalised their spacecraft, using the parts for the raw materials of survival. The Imperial Knights now dwell in massive strongholds, forboding martial structures, the heart of which contains technologies taken from these ancient colonisation vessels. The formal role of protector and castellan developed over time into the structure of noble houses that was old when the Imperium was in its infancy. The curious fact that the knightly houses are often uncannily alike despite their far-flung nature is explained, at least in part, by the union of noble pilot and his suit of knight armour, known as the Ritual of Becoming. Connecting at a neural level with the War Spirit of a suit of Knight armour has a profound effect on the consciousness of the pilot. The joining of mind and War Spirit has helped to create cultures which appear uncannily similar across the galaxy, despite evolving on worlds that are far apart, and have never shared formal communication.
The Imperial Knights are characterised by their independence. They are bound to the Imperium, and to the Adeptus Mechanicus by oaths of fealty, but they are not subjects in any true sense of the word. Their culture and society predates the Imperium by thousands of Terran years, way back before the Dark Age of Technology, and it is informed far more by the bonds between a noble pilot and his Knight suit than any outside influence. Theirs is a culture of relentless, formalised ritual. It is a society that exists around a stultifying observance to apparently pointless ceremony and endless courtly mundanity. Against this tableau of formalised ritual are the Knight pilots. They are a breed of warriors who find their only joy in battle, and they yearn constantly to escape the oppressive dullness of courtly life and ride their Knight suits to war. The thrill of battle and the risk of death is an infinitely preferable experience for them to the monotony of life within their fortresses. These are warriors born to their calling and raised for nothing other than war. They spend every moment they can preparing, training and planning for battle –- the alternative is simply too dull for them to even contemplate.
Oaths of AllegianceEdit
When Mankind rediscovered the feudal domains of the Knight Houses, they quickly found common cause, exchanging oaths of loyalty. The knightly houses found on each of the Knight worlds are affiliated with either the Imperium or the Adeptus Mechanicus. The Knight Worlds aligned with the Imperium are expected to adhere to the Imperial tithe as does any other planet, but still trade with the Adeptus Mechanicus to keep their Knight suits operational. Many Knight Houses see the Imperium as their equal partner, and support it militarily out of mutual advantage. Although these houses trade openly with the Imperium, and march to war alongside their armies, they retain a fierce independence. Other houses found common cause specifically with the Mechanicum, who in turn courted the Knight House with unseemly eagerness. These Adeptus Mechanicus-aligned houses, as they are now known, have forged alliances of reciprocal protection and betterment.
The Knight Worlds with direct ties to the Adeptus Mechanicus are often found near to the parent Forge World with which they are associated. This is no mere coincidence, for many of these Forge Worlds were specifically founded near to Knight Worlds in order to harvest their natural resources. The Titan Legions that set forth from these Forge Worlds to battle the enemies of Mankind often do so in the company of their allies from the Knight Worlds. A partnership between both Forge and Knight World is mutually advantageous to both factions, as their combined military strength is great enough to shatter cities and conquer worlds. Those who look at the fealty of the knightly houses towards the Adeptus Mechanicus often wonder at whether the relationship is not in fact based on jealousy, for the Tech-priests of Mars covet the pre-Imperial technology that lies within the mighty citadels of each Knight House. For their part, the Mechanicus-aligned houses seem not to care, since they receive the full resources of the affiliated Forge Worlds from their allies. While the overwhelming majority of Imperial Knights belong to houses (such as Houses Terryn, Hawkshroud and Cadmus) who are aligned to the Imperium, some houses (such as Taranis and Raven) are sworn to the service of the Adeptus Mechanicus. Each house has its own proud traditions that span thousands of standard years, and will have fought in countless battles on behalf of humanity.
Some Knights, for one reason or another, forsake the succour of a noble house, and forge their own destiny as a Freeblade. Ancient tradition ensures that every noble pilot has the right to leave his knightly house and strike out on his own. These Freeblade Knights are tragic heroes, driven to leave their houses to pursue a cause of their own, continuing to fight for Mankind, but call no man master. Whether they have been dishonoured, shunned by their peers or perhaps can simply no longer abide the drudgery of courtly life, is unknown. Freeblades either set out on their own, wandering the stars in search of a worthy cause, or else they settle in further isolation, offering their protection to those who need it.
Knight Worlds of the ImperiumEdit
There are many hundreds of Knight Worlds scattered throughout the vast empire of Mankind. The bold explorers of Humanity's first interstellar expansion during the Age of Technology travelled far and wide into the galactic wilderness seeking habitable worlds or planets that could otherwise be terraformed to sustain human life. Many of these exploratory fleets were equipped with Knight Standard Template Construct (STC) technology, enabling them to protect the colonies they established. More than fifteen millennia after their ancient ancestors set out into the stars, the distant descendants of these human colonists dwell still on Knight Worlds scattered across the demesne of the Imperium. Though many knightly houses have risen and fallen over the ages, those that remain can trace their heritage back to a time before the birth of the Imperium, and are justifiably proud of their ancestry. Thus is every Knight World heavy with the weight of the past, regardless of its galactic location or level of technological advancement.
All Knight Worlds in the Imperium of Man owe fealty to the Magi of the Adeptus Mechanicus, and in particular to their "capital" Forge World, bound by oaths sworn thousands of standard years ago. In times of war, every Knight World sends thousands of men and machines, in addition to the Knight Titans, to fight for the Mechanicus wherever they are requested. In addition to serving the Forge Worlds, the Knights will support campaigns of the Imperial Guard at the behest of their Mechanicus masters. The Knight Worlds supply the great Forge Worlds with food and raw materials, and are most often the main source of these resources. Most of the Knight Worlds have several large landmasses covered with plains or vast forests. Through these wildernesses wander grazing herds of Megasaurs, great dinosaur-like beasts that either evolved naturally or were transplanted to the planet during the Dark Age of Technology. Carnosaur predators pursue and hunt the herds, and the Knights in their armoured suits are required to fend them off. The Knights keep a constant vigil in order to keep not only the natural predators, but also pirates and raiders from the Eldar Exodite clans at bay. The Servitor-run strip mines often become assaulted by those who covet the gold, silver and uranium extracted from there.
For an entire year the Knights defend their domains until great ships arrive from their capital Forge World, bringing new Knight Suits, weapons, tools and mining machinery. They leave with their holds packed with ores and Megasaur meat. At times Warp Storms are severe enough to delay Mechanicus fleets from reaching their destination for months, leaving the Knight Worlds teetering on the brink of anarchy.
The basic tactical and sociopolitical unit employed by the Knight Worlds is a House. A Knight House is an aristocratic noble family that owes fealty to the Adeptus Mechanicus, providing soldiers, the resources of their worlds and their own martial skills in exchange for the technological expertise that the Tech-priests of Mars offer. A Knight House is usually headed by a senior member of this family, aided by other elders of the House. Some Knight Worlds have many different families inhabiting them, whilst others are dominated by a single one. On planets with more than one House, the rivalry for the favour of the capital Forge World is high and sometimes breaks into hostility. Despite their personal differences, however, when the Forge World gives the call to arms, all Knights fight side by side against the enemies of the Mechanicus and the Imperium.
In times of war, a House's formation -- Knights and the men-at-arms who provide tactical support -- that goes on Crusade with Imperial forces is known as a Household. Knights are further separated into detachments according to their type for greater tactical flexibility. A Household is under overall command of a Seneschal -- usually, but not necessarily, a Knight Baron. A Household is further divided into detachments, which by principle can only contain Knights of a single type.
Knights are not commonly now seen on the battlefields of the late 41st Millenium. Most often they only enter combat in defence of Mechanicus domains or of their own worlds. They sometimes provide tactical support to a Titan Legion in a Crusade, or to units of the Imperial Guard if their help is ordered by the Lords of their House's allied Forge World. On the other hand, when a force of Imperial Guardsmen acts in support of a Knight Household, the Knight Seneschal technically can take command of the Guardsmen, acting as their company commander for the duration of combat operations.
The war machines utilised by the Imperial Knights were orginally built with the intention of helping with the work of human colonisation. That inherent practicality was communicated in many of the aspects of their current design. For example, the Reaper Chainsword, considered such a fearsome weapon on the battlefield, was clearly once intended for clearing huge areas of vegetation for the early settlers. Each of the weapons has heavy-duty lifting hooks attached to it, and one can imagine the original practical colonists hooking up digging or lifting apparatus just as easily as they could remove a powerful Battle Cannon out of stores to fend off marauding Orks or Eldar. Many of the practical elements of the original endoskeleton of the Knights' war machines are now hidden under the sloped armour plates and heraldry of the Imperial Knight. If one were able to penetrate beneath the heavy layers of thick protective armour plates, the war machine would resemble the functional construction machines of the past when the colonists first used them to defend their early settlements.
The most common types of Knights are the Knight Paladin and the Knight Errant, both based on the same chassis but equipped with different weapon arrays. This particular chassis is often used due to its flexibility. The armoured leg plates protect the machine from infantry units, but still give it enough speed and agility to use its deadly Shock Lance. These types of Knights are equipped with special close combat weapons and are regarded as expertly skilled in their use. This capability is supplemented with ranged weapons powerful enough to blast even heavy vehicles from afar and to mow down infantry formations. There are several different types or patterns of Knights used on the Knight Worlds. These include:
- Knight Paladin - The Knight Paladin is the archetypal Knight walker, usually armed with a large calibre Battle Cannon and a giant Knight-sized Chainsword. The Battle Cannon possesses a long range and is capable of piercing even a true Titan's armour. The Chainswords used by Knight Paladins are described as being easily as destructive as the close combat weapons used by the larger Warhound-class Scout Titans, capable of harming even an Imperator 's armour plating.
- Knight Errant - The Knight Errant is based on the same body as the Knight Paladin, but serves a more specialised purpose. Armed with potent Thermal Lances, it is highly suited to attacking large targets such as Chaos Titans and even Mega-Gargants, vaporising steel and flesh with equal ease. Like the Knight Paladin, the Knight Errant is also equipped with a close combat weapon supplementing its visor-mounted Shock Lance, although this pattern's most traditional armament is a Power Gauntlet. With such a weapons load-out, the Knight Errant is capable of inflicting notable punishment upon the largest of vehicles.
- Knight Lancer - The Knight Lancer is a variant of the standard Knight suit that has been designed for speed and agility. The Knight Lancer is most usually used to perform scouting actions, outflank enemy forces and distract them while heavier units can position themselves to attack. The Knight Lancer is equipped with a Battle Cannon to give it long range fighting capability, but its true armament is the Power Lance. The Power Lance is a relatively simple upgrade to the standard Shock Lance that is mounted on other Knight patterns. It operates by intensifying the bolt of energy normally expelled from Shock Lances, changing it into a searing arc of lightning capable of rending all but the strongest of armour plating and causing havoc in enemy ranks. The Power Lance has a very short range, but its nature makes it the perfect weapon for hit-and-run attacks.
- Knight Crusader - The Knight Crusader alongside its counterpart the Knight Castellan are the heaviest types of Knight manufactured by Mechanicus Forge Worlds. These Knights are slower and less nimble than their kin, but benefit from much heavier weaponry and increased firepower as well as considerably thicker and sturdier armour plate. Because of their great bulk, the Crusader and the Castellan cannot move fast enough to generate the charge needed to fire a Shock Lance. Instead, they are used in a fire support role, providing covering fire for the other Knights and allowing them to charge in and engage the enemy in melee, whilst also picking off threats to the main force from a safe distance. The most common and notable feature of these Knight patterns is the modified shoulder-mounted Quake Cannon -- a massive artillery piece most often found on Warlord-class Titans or mounted on Imperator-class Titans' carapace hardpoints, capable of destroying Titans and entire buildings alike. The Knight Crusader supplements its Quake Cannon with a twin-linked Lascannon, used to destroy armoured targets at extreme range. Coupled with the Knight Crusader's excellent frontal shielding, this combination makes for a deadly fire support unit.
- Knight Castellan - The Knight Castellan is identical to the Knight Crusader in every respect but one: rather than using Lascannons, the Knight Castellan supplements its weaponry with a multi-barrelled Autocannon. Although this weapon is relatively short-ranged, the hail of shells it delivers can easily cut down swathes of most enemy infantry and light vehicle units, or strip a Titan of its Void Shields in an instant.
- Knight Baron - The Knight Baron is piloted by a superior warrior with razor-sharp combat and Knight-handling skills. A Baron Knight usually leads a Knight squadron into battle. As a sign of their command and societal status, every Baron uses a Knight custom-built to their exact specifications. This Knight pattern's armour plating is thick and resilient, and heavily decorated with House symbols and fluttering pennants in the colours of the Baron's estates. A Knight Baron is usually armed with a Battle Cannon and the destructive Power Lance, usually only found on Knight Lancers -- which also means that despite its exceptional sturdiness, the Knight Baron's armour is light enough to allow the machine to move fast enough to generate the charge necessary to operate the weapon, and to keep up with the charging Knight Lancers. In battle, the Knight Baron leads the assaults of his kinsmen, crashing through enemy lines like a bolt of lightning with his followers hacking into the foe around him with redoubled pride and fervour.
Note: The next pattern of Knight, the Knight Warden, only appears in a single source containing information that has been rendered partially obsolete. For completeness' sake, however, it has been included in this list. See the Canon Conflict section for more information
- Knight Warden - When a member of a Knight House reaches old age, he is allowed to retire, passing his armour down to his eldest descendant and instead donning the suit of a Knight Warden. Wardens are charged with defending the family household and serving the members of their House with sage advice. Although no longer as quick as their younger kin, their experience and expertise more than make up for this falling. Wardens are armed with long-ranged, heavy weapons and are well-armoured, but are not equipped with Shock Lances. A Squire cannot become a Warden, and must at least be a full Knight. Those who proceed to attain the rank of a Lord or are already Lords when they retire are instead reffered to as "Seneschals". A Warden's battle armour is always painted almost entirely white, with only a single plate painted in a fashion adequate to the individual's rank.
- Autocannon - An Autocannon is a fully automatic heavy ballistic weapon capable of firing a hail of high-velocity shells. The Autocannons used by the Knights are almost exclusively in the possession of Knight Castellans, and they are heavyweight, multi-barreled, high-caliber weapons, fitting armament for a fire support Titan. A Knight Castellan's Autocannon is capable of stripping a Titan of its Void Shields in a matter of seconds.
- Battle Cannon - A Battle Cannon is a weapon commonly seen mounted on the Leman Russ main battle tanks of the Imperial Guard. This ordnance is easily mounted on a Knight chassis and is a favoured weapon of many of Knight pilots.
- Bolter - Knights utilise small Bolters, relative to their own size, for protection against infantry boarding actions and to help mow down lightly armoured targets. Knight Bolters have a short range, and essentially are weapons only used in melee fights or when running down infantry formations.
- Chainsword - Many Knights utilise Titan-scale Chainswords to fight in melee, and it is a signature weapon of the Knight Paladins.
- Ion Shield - The protective shields utilised by Knight Titans are different from the Void Shields employed by true Titans. Instead, the Knights carry a small but potent directional power field generator across a 90 degree arc in front of the Knight. By skillfully manipulating this field, the Knight can slow and deflect incoming fire. Although giving ample protection to the front, this shielding fails at protecting the sides of the machine and even more so -- its back, which is completely vulnerable. In addition, unlike Titan Void Shields, Knight Ion Shields are unrechargable during combat once they have been breached or collapsed under enemy fire.
- Lascannon - A Lascannon is a potent las weapon that fires high-energy laser beams capable of penetrating heavy armour at long range. Twin-linked Lascannons are used by Knight Crusaders for fire support purposes, and these Knights prefer those weapons over the Autocannons used by Knight Castellans for the same purpose due to their longer range.
- Mind Impulse Unit - Knight Titans utilise a Mind Impulse Unit similar to that used by Titans for neural interfacing between the pilot and the machine, and these devices are similar if not identical to those used by true Titans. Knight Titans do possess a feral, instinctive consciousness or Machine Spirit that defines these God Machines, although it is weaker in strength and ferocity than those of the larger Titans.
- Powerfist - Powerfists are Knight-sized Power Weapons used chiefly by Knight Errants in melee combat.
- Power Lance - The Power Lance is for all intents and purposes a simple upgrade of the Shock Lance, intensifying its bolt of energy into a searing arc of lightning capable of dealing significant damage to any foe. This weapon is employed only by Knight Barons and Knight Lancers.
- Quake Cannon - A Quake Cannon is a massive artillery piece capable of shattering the armour of Titans or demolishing entire buildings. Quake Cannons are most usually placed on the arm hardpoints of Warlord-class Titans or on the carapace hardpoints of Imperator-class Titans. This is also a weapon employed by Knight Crusaders and Castellans. The Quake Cannon's great weight and these Knights' heavier armour prevents them from achieving the speeds necessary to make use of the Shock Lance.
- Shock Lance - The Shock Lance traces its beginning to a humble electrical device used to herd great beasts that roamed the Knight Worlds. It delivered a fairly powerful shock that was necessary to inflict any pain on the thick-hided animals and its potential as a tool of war has been quickly recongnised. It has since been weaponised and the Knight Paladins and Errants that form the bulk of a standard Knight force are equipped with Shock Lances The lances are mounted in the suits' visors, leading to a superstition rising amongst some that the Knights can kill with a glance. These weapons are used to release high voltage electromagnetic shocks on any targets that are in range. The engines of the Knight suits are fitted with huge dynamos that revolve as the Knight moves and charges into combat, storing an electric charge in capacitors located in the Knight suit's visor. When the Knight enters close combat, the charge is so great it can do nothing but ground itself -- usually via the enemy, delivering a devastating electric shock which can burn infantry to the bone and short out weapon and control systems. This weapon, although potent, prevents a Knight from charging a single target unless it is the size of a super-heavy vehicle or a Titan, lest they risk arcing the electric shock from their lances onto each other.
- Thermal Cannon - A Thermal Cannon is a heat-based weapon mounted on Knight Titans, presumably making use of Promethium fuel. It is a weapon often employed by Knight Errants, and is, along with the Powerfist, that pattern of Knight's signature weapon. This is only a tradition, however, and the Thermal Cannon is not tied solely to the Knight Errants and could be used by other patterns, if necessary.
Every Imperial Knight is a precious and valued war machine, revered by its noble pilot and painstakingly maintained by the house sacristans responsible for its upkeep. Each is painted in the glorious heraldry of its house, and decorated with imagery and iconography that tell of its homeworld, oaths and battle honours. The Knight Houses use an elaborate system of heraldry signifying their allegiance and the house to which they belong. Knights will use some variation of their house's heraldry as their livery, incorporating its themes and motifs, but no two liveries can be identical. All Knights bear striking, colourful liveries and often adorn their war machines with heraldic pennants. It is customary for the Knights to compete not only in combat feats, but also in the appearance of their war mounts. Each symbol on an Imperial Knight has a powerful resonance for its wearer and a deep inner meaning.
Most Knights carry a variety of pennants and banners proudly proclaiming their heritage and battle honours. These flags are flown from carapaces and weapons but, most commonly, hang from the pinions that drive the war machine's powerful legs. Although the houses remained independent and isolated from the rest of Mankind for millennia after the settlement of their homeworlds, their banners became more standardised when the nobles bent their knee to the Emperor of Mankind or the Adeptus Mechanicus in His stead. To this end, the banners of both Imperium-aligned and Mechanicus-aligned Knights are broadly similar. The general format of a house banner has the house crest in its full form in the upper half of the pennant. All Knights from a single house will carry this identical sigil. The lower portion of the banner is devoted to kill, honour and campaign markings. These will differ from individual to individual, depending on where they have served and what honours they have gained. The exact layout and composition of these honours also varies from house to house. Some Knight Houses prefer a relatively simple arrangement of these markings with coloured fields behind the icons, while other may favour a more complex array of icons and markings.
The kill campaign and honour badges are a mix of local iconography (perhaps unique to a house) and sigils used by the armies of the Imperium. For example, if a Knight serves in an Imperial campaign, his banners would display the official badge for that action, and this sigil would also be worn by any Space Marines or Imperial Guardsmen involved. The banners belonging to Freeblade Knights exemplify their individualism. They often echo the livery the pilots choose to apply over the top of their old house colours. Mottoes are not uncommon, or alternative versions of the icons of these outcasts choose to identify themselves by. Such designs often reflect the fatalistic approach of the pilots -- with skulls and other memento mori represented in great number. The pride of the nobles who pilot the great Knight units is such that they will take any opportunity to proclaim their loyalties and achievements. To this end they often decorate the rear side of their banners. Though less visible, these spaces are used for catechisms, rolls of honour and lists of revered ancestors.
The Knight Houses trace their origins to a period thousands of standard years before the birth of the Imperium of Man, so their banners present a visual language that appears to have evolved through time. Each began as a simple device, such as the white horse of House Terryn. Over the millennia, new alliances and significant events caused it to evolve into something grander, reflecting the complex relationship between the Knight House and the Imperium itself. The white horse is symbolically linked to a vision that the house founder had way back in its distant past. Over the millennia, more heraldry, such as the helm above the crest and the swords behind were added (symbolic of an ancient battle), as was the house name. Later, when Seuitonius Terryn swore allegiance to the Imperium, the crest was marshalled, with the half-Aquila falling on the right side, and resplendent eagle wings as supporters. This half-and-half shows the observer the relationship between the knightly house and the Imperium, and the dichotomy of loyalty to their house and the wider Imperium.
Other forms of Knight House heraldry, such as the house banner of House Griffith, possess subtle nods to events in their long, glorious history in the crest and secondary devices they employ. These are often very grand, with a mythological aspect to whatever symbols are chosen. House Griffith has fought wars against dragons during its ancient history, and as such wear dragons as their crest. This desperate struggle served to harden the nobles into skilled and fierce warriors. Millennia later, House Griffith is sworn to the Imperium, and has earned a reputation for producing some of the most formidable warriors ever to sit upon the Throne Mechanicum. The heraldry of House Griffith is halved with a dragon motif, connecting to their ancient history, and a red-winged Aquila, professing loyalty to Terra. What truth lies behind the dragon symbol is now the subject of legend as much as historical fact, but to the warriors of House Griffith, it is very important.
Essentially the same is true of the Adeptus Mechanicus-aligned houses. Their imagery tends more towards the industrial, with harder edges to their designs, where tools replace the swords and axes displayed by other houses. In the place of Imperial Aquilas, these Imperial Knights wear the half-cog of the Adeptus Mechanicus. The same dual-split remains here, with loyalty divided between the house and the Machine Cult. A perfect example is the crest of House Raven, foremost among the knightly houses aligned to the Adeptus Mechanicus. Their ancient alliance was brought about when a lord of House Raven witnessed the Magi of Forge World Metalica rouse to life Knight suits that had lain inoperable for centuries. The seat of House Raven's power is their indomitable fortress known as the Keep Inviolate, a foreboding structure on the Knight World of Kolossi. The full house crest of Raven bears homage to their heritage with the dual image of the Keep Inviolate and the Opus Machina.
Finally, each Imperial Knight has the right to wear his own personal heraldry. Those of Imperial-aligned houses wear this on their front-right shoulder plate of their Knight. The form it takes is a matter of personal choice, although different houses have their own traditions. Adeptus Mechanicus-aligned houses do not typically bother with this at all. The nobles from houses such as Krast and Raven are willingly subsumed, and do not fear for their independence.
Each suit of Knight armour worn by nobles of an Imperial-aligned Knight House will always display three things: the major plates display house symbols, most typically the crest and lesser icons. The minor plates show Imperial heraldry. Finally, the Knight's front right shoulder guard is reserved for the personal heraldry of the noble pilot -- this is a heraldic design which is unique to that specific warrior and none other. Knight Houses dedicated to the service of the Machine God are less predisposed to tolerate personal heraldry; this does not, however, preclude individual differences. Also of note is the common practice of painting the Knight's faceplate in a black and white half tone.
- The Gauntlet - The symbol of an armoured gauntlet crushing a serpent symbolises House Krast's hatred of Chaos. The warriors of House Krast are violent opponents of the Forces of Chaos. Historically they were the first knightly house to join their forces to the Great Crusade, and they took great honour in their part of the Emperor's galactic conquest. But when the Horus Heresy reared its head, they suffered terribly. Chrysis, the home planet of House Krast, was utterly ravaged by the Traitors, and left as little more than a husk, reduced to a poisonous wasteland by the virus weapons unleashed upon it. Even 10,000 standard years later, the nobles now live in Void-Shielded enclaves, and look out at their ruined world and feel a burning hate. Their icon is now the embodiment of their quest for vengeance, and they proudly tally the many Chaos worshippers they have defeated. Prosecuting this endless battle against the forces of the Dark Gods has become their driving motivation. Such is their venom that there is a secret place on their homeworld, known as the Hammer of Traitors. Here they carve the names of Chaos worshippers they have destroyed -- and, rumour has it, bring prisoners to die terrible, gasping deaths in the poisonous air.
- Knightly Honours - Glorious kills are celebrated by Imperial Knights with icons to be worn on their personal banner or suit of Knight armour. These take many forms, from targetting symbols or small skulls to rings around weapon barrels. House Krast's greatest hate is for the Traitor Titan Legion of the Legio Mortis, who they hold accountable for the horrors unleashed on Chrysis. The death head symbol utilised by the Knights of House Krast is a modified badge of the Legio Mortis, with a crack which denotes a Titan kill of their most hated enemies.
Marks of FealtyEdit
Every Imperial Knight wears an icon upon its carapace that proclaims the loyalty of its house to all that behold it:
- Imperial Eagle - The Imperial Eagle, or Aquila, is the icon worn by Imperium-aligned houses. It is worth noting that, while his icon proclaims a close military alliance, it does not imply any form of subjugation. Indeed, Knight Houses see themselves as equals (if not betters) of the Imperium, alongside whom they fight for mutual benefit and as a sign of friendship.
- Machina Opus - The icon of the Adeptus Mechanicus, also known as the Cog Mechanicum , is worn by Imperial Knights in houses which are aligned with the Priesthood of Mars. Houses that wear this mark not only fight alongside the Adeptus Mechanicus, and will answer a call for aid without hesitation, but can also rely on the industrial might of the Forge Worlds to supply and repair their war machines.
- Laurels Fidelis - Knights who take the mantle of Freeblades cast aside the heraldry of their former houses. Tradition dictates that these nobles adopt the Laurels Fidelis, a laurel-wreathed skull which indicates their continued loyalty towards the Imperium of Man, despite leaving their houses behind. An Imperial Knight wearing this symbol will fight for Mankind, even until death.
During the Horus Heresy, the galaxy was engulfed in the fiercest civil war Mankind has ever known. Those who remained loyal to the Emperor fought against their erstwhile brothers as the Warmaster Horus made his bid for power. In those days, bonds of brotherhood were shattered and mistrust was common, treachery becoming as much a weapon as Bolters and Battle Cannons. One of the more significant betrayals occured on the Knight World of Molech, located only several light years from Terra.
When the Warmaster Horus led his forces towards the cradle of humanity, he left a trail of destruction in his wake, countless worlds falling before his might or switching allegiance and supporting his cause. It was on the planet of Molech that one of the most determined stands was to be made. Three Titan Legions and over a hundred Imperial Army regiments and Knight Households stood ready to face the Warmaster's onslaught.
Horus' initial assault devastated many cities and strongholds. Amongst the victims were the world's rulers -- the nobles of House Devine. Dispossessed and unable to fight back, the Devine family slowly succumbed to the temptations of Chaos. Over the following months, the insidious whispers of Slaanesh spread through their fatigued ranks. Their officers became lethargic and interested only in their sports, using their mighty machines to hunt down the wild animals of Molech. The grip of the Prince of Pleasure grew stronger as he bent the will of the Devine. Soon, they began to meet in secret cabals, commiting depraved rites and ceremonies within the heart of the Loyalist camp. No act was too shameful or disgusting to them, as the sensations of the moment became their only desire.
When Horus launched a massive offensive against the Imperial forces, the Knights of House Devine betrayed those loyal to the Emperor. The Loyalists found themselves trapped, caught between the advancing enemy forces and the Renegade Knights attacking from behind. This treachery allowed the Forces of Chaos to punch through the Imperial lines, blocking any routes of escape. Of the entire Imperial host only one in a hundred survived the campaign. Molech was a crushing defeat to the Imperium, opening the road to Terra and allowing the Warmaster to launch his final assault on the Sol system.
This occurrence was the first betrayal conducted by a Knight House, and since that time, many Knight Houses have been corrupted throughout the millennia. Many of the machines' pilots have long since died, but their souls continue to live on as daemons, occupying the shells of their war walkers. The Knights themselves have also mutated, sprouting claws, tails and other horrendous natural weapons as blessings of the Dark Gods. When the war machines of a Knight House dedicated to the Ruinous Powers marches onto the battlefield, it spreads havoc, despair and death.
Daemon Knights of SlaaneshEdit
Imperial records are somewhat lacking in their information referring to the Knights in general, and this is only more true in regard to those nobles of the Knight Worlds who have embraced the fickle blessings of the Chaos Gods. Almost all knowledge of these Traitors comes from records concerning those of the Knights that have dedicated themselves to Slaanesh, and virtually nothing is known of those in service to the other Chaos Gods, or of those worshipping Chaos Undivided as a singular entity.
The Daemon Knights of Slaanesh are the first element of an advancing Slaaneshi army, preceding the bulk of Chaos forces and Chaos Titans. Their task is to seek out the enemy, probe defences and attempt to flush them out of fortified positions. The Knights' chief advantage is their speed and agility, allowing them to easily outflank any enemy and to run down and exterminate any stragglers.
Slaaneshi Daemon Knights do not use Shock Lances or Power Lances, as these weapons do not suit their style of combat. Akin to the Chaos Titans of Slaanesh, and the Eldar Titans that they emulate, the Daemon Knights are exceptionally nimble and agile, and they prefer to ambush their enemies and fight from afar, rather than charge headlong into close-quarters melee.
These Daemon Knights also do not utilise Power Fields. Instead, they are surrounded by a glittering wall of energy created by the warp-interface within them which anchors the daemonic spirit inside in the material realm. This shifting, swirling aura is called the Glamour of Slaanesh and makes the Daemon Knight very hard to target accurately. In effect, it works like an Eldar Holo-field, and is a yet another emulation of that race's Titans. Like the Holo-field, the Glamour of Slaanesh proves useless against barrages and other attacks spread over a wide area, as such weapons do not rely on pinpoint accuracy. Additionally, since the Glamour of Slaanesh is an interface with the Immaterium, it also provides a measure of protection against attacks drawing upon the Warp, such as Vortex Missiles or psychic powers.
Daemon Knight PatternsEdit
- Hell-Strider - The Hell-Strider is the smallest of the Daemon Knights, armed with Lascannons and short-range, Knight-sized Melta Weapons. Hell-Striders are extremely mobile, able to flush out enemies from forests and ruins with their powerful but short ranged weaponry. Given sufficient numbers, Hell-Striders are capable of toppling Titans, picking of the target's shields with Lascannons before closing in for the kill with their Melta-beams.
- Hell-Scourge - Hell-Scourges are one of the largest patterns of Slaaneshi Daemon Knights. As living machines in the service of the Prince of Chaos, they have crushed countless opponents in the last ten millenia, screeching deafening cries across the battlefield. They are the perfect predators, hunters who mercilessly run down their quarry with the bounding strides of their elegant, powerful legs. The Hell-Scourges attack without warning. As one appears, the enemy turn their weapons on its blurred form, only to see it disappear. At that moment, others attack from all sides, mowing through armour and flesh with their massive Castigator Cannons. Hell-Scourges possess a certain pack instinct and are in constant telepathic communication with each other. As such, they make exceptionally well-coordinated assaults, outflanking their enemies with ease. This telepathic contact seems to encompass all Hell-Scourges present on the battlefield, or perhaps even further.
- Hell-Knight - Hell-Knights are one of the most specialised types of Daemon Knights. Aside from Bolters, their main weapon is a Thermal Lance which, albeit short-ranged, has enough power to pierce almost any armour plate with relative ease. Hell-Knights are often used to hunt down enemy Knights and Titans, exploiting their speed to attack from the sides and overwhelm opponents. In addition to this, they are perfectly suited to perform ambushes, and are often used in this respect. A notable exploit of the Hell-Knights took place on the Hive World of Kado as part of a massive daemonic incursion. Imperial forces and the Titans of the Legio Crucius suffered grave losses in the defence of that world's capital hive city. As the Titans fired upon the advancing hordes of Chaos, felling hundreds upon hundreds of daemons and Heretics, a large force of Slaaneshi Daemon Knights infiltrated the hive city's massive subterranean transportation network. As the battle raged above them, the Chaos walkers sped through the dimly lit tunnels and corridors, quickly obliterating any resistance they encountered. On the second day of the hive city's siege, the Daemon Knights emerged from beneath the ground and burst into the main streets and arcades of the city, finding themselves behind the Titans of the Legio Crucius, and within firing distance. With a single massed salvo from the Daemon Knights' Thermal Lances, nearly the entire Loyalist Titan battlegroup was destroyed, the august forms of the Titans turned into molten slag. Amongst the victims of this attack was the colossal Praeco Deictus, an Imperator-class Battle Titan which had survived the grim days of the Horus Heresy and brought victory to the Imperium on over a thousand worlds.
Known Knight HousesEdit
- House Arakon
- House Arundel
- House Beaumaris
- House Cadmus
- House Degallio
- House Dunstan
- House Griffith
- House Hawkshroud
- House Hawkwood
- House Hyperion
- House Khord
- House Krast
- House Lakar
- House Mortimer
- House Raven
- House Taranis
- House Terryn
- House Trainor
- House Vymar
- House Warwick
- Knights of Taranis
The history of the Knight war machines as presented above is canon culled from the game Titan Legions and the corresponding Codex Titanicus, as well as in the 178th issue of the United Kingdom Edition of White Dwarf magazine and the new Codex: Imperial Knights for the 6th Edition of the game. Knight Titans did not exist in the original release of Adeptus Titanicus, however, they were added in a different incarnation as a supplement found in UK Edition White Dwarf, issue 126th. This account of the Knights' history differed from that given above and has largely been superseded by newer canon, however for a number of reasons -- chief amongst them being the presence of relevant information pertaining to the Eldar Knights -- it has been included in the article and is presented below. Please note that this version contains old background information that is no longer considered canon according to the current iteration of the Warhammer 40K universe -- for example the existence of the Imperial Cult as the official doctrine of the Imperium of Man in the pre-Heresy era.
During the Dark Age of Technology Mankind sent forth many scout and explorer parties to seek out worlds viable for mass production of food for the huge Hive Worlds that the majority of the race inhabited. Such agricultural worlds copied farming techniques learned from Eldar Exodite and Knight Clans already present on some worlds discovered by the humans. The Humans began utilising combat walkers invented by the Eldar and referred to them as "Knights". In a period referred to by the Exodites as The Coming of Men, the xenos and the human colonists clashed in a number of bloody conflicts as the Eldar Knights sought to protect their homes from interlopers.
When these planets were cut off in the Age of Strife, they became Feral Worlds and a warrior aristocracy rose to prominence amongst its human populations, mimicking the lifestyle of the Eldar Clans. On many worlds, the Eldar Knight Clans reconquered the lands they had lost, and settled into a pattern of raiding and battling against the humans, as well as each other. The wealth and power of the human Knight Houses and the Eldar Clans was based on massive herds of Megasaurs -- great beasts created by cloning and genetic engineering by the Eldar prior to the Fall of the Eldar, made to be an efficient source of protein-rich food. These herds diminished over the course of fighting, but as the only readily available food source, they remained vitally important.
While the Eldar shared their duties throughout the clan, the humans enforced a feudal system on their subordinates. A sub-class called the "Drovers" was to look after the herds, as the nobility would not soil their hands with such work. The Drovers used walkers similar to those of their masters, but they were, by law, not armed with any weapons, despite the fact that they faced very serious threats in the form of predators and xenos raids. This forced the Drovers to rely on the Knights for protection, and created a dependency comfortable for the nobles, as it made revolt virtually impossible.
In addition to the Knight war machines, every House had multiple men-at-arms in its employ, resembling somewhat modern Planetary Defence Forces, although possessing a much smaller amount of heavy equipment. The Knights themselves would retire when they reached old age, passing their Battle Armour down to their heir, and in its stead donning the armour of a Warden. They would then take the task of protecting the household and lending its members their advice.
On the majority of these worlds, artificers and technicians became the most important subjects of the warrior nobility. Initially, they only maintained the Knight walkers, but soon learned to speak with one voice, threatening to withdraw their services from any House that would not heed their words. They styled themselves as a priesthood for the half-forgotten mysteries of technology and were called the Sacristans. As their power grew, they arbitrated between the Knight Houses and ensured that the headstrong nobles did not wipe out one another in bitter feuds. The perpetual dangers of their worlds meant that the Humans could ill afford wars of mutual attrition and genocide, and this necessitated the use of chivalric values to settle disputes. Eventually the Sacristans ritualised the values of Duty, Honour and Valour and passed these traditions through generations. With the acceptance of these values, the Knights became known as The Chivalry.
In addition to the threat presented by hostile Houses, The Chivalry had to conduct frequent battles against their worlds' indigenous predators. Hunting these beasts honed their martial skills into a deadly art, preparing them for periods of Warp instability, when the Immaterium spewed forth horrid, mutated beasts to prey upon the material realm. When such a monstrosity was sighted, all of The Chivalry would take on quests to destroy the beast before it could taint the land.
Thousands of standard years after their colonistation, these planets were rediscovered by Rogue Trader Jeffers and brought into the newborn Imperium of Man. When Jeffers described these agricultural worlds he referred to their inhabitants as "Knights," pointing out their many Knightly virtues as he emphasised their planets' worth to the Imperium both as a food source, and as a source of warriors readied for battle from the cradle. The Imperial Administratum agreed with Jeffers' findings and quickly set about rediscovering the rest of these long-lost Agri-Worlds. Much to their delight, the Imperial officials found that two thirds of the originally settled worlds still possess human populations, with all of their societies working along similar lines. The remaining worlds were either contested between human Knight Houses and Eldar Exodites, or held exclusively by the xenos Knight Clans with strong relations with their allied Craftworlds, trading raw material for technology.
Most often Knight Worlds became affiliated with a particular Titan Forge World, supplying it with food and raw materials, whilst its Sacristans would fall under the control of the Adeptus Mechanicus. Other Knight Worlds were left with a large degree of autonomy, required only to produce food and obey the call to arms when it was given. The Imperial Cult was introduced in such a way that The Chivalry could be called on by the Imperium to join a "Crusade". Forsaking old rivalries, the Knights would form family units to fight with the Titan Legions or alongside the Imperial Guard. Knights of a given house would be led by a noble holding the rank of a Lord -- or the corresponding title of a Seneschal if he happened to be a Warden. Young Knights sometimes did not possess their own armour, but trained using that of their father. When fighting in a Crusade they were given their own armour, built upon a Mechanicus Forge World. Once they returned home they were allowed to retain the armour and form their own House.
- Codex: Imperial Knights (6th Edition)
- Titan Legions (2nd Edition), pp. 27-30, 54
- White Dwarf 5 (March 01, 2014) (UK) , "Codex: Imperial Knights", pp. 5-51, 62-65, 67-68, 73
- White Dwarf 4 (February 22, 2014) (UK) , "Imperial Knight" by Jervis Johnson, pp. 5-15, 28-33, 52-58
- White Dwarf 190 (UK), "Epic: Slaanesh War Machines," pp. 27-31
- White Dwarf 182 (UK), " 'Eavy Metal: Forces of the Imperium," pg. 38; "Titan Legions: Knight Households," pp. 39-40
- White Dwarf 180 (UK), " 'Eavy Metal: Imperial Knights", pg. 26
- White Dwarf 178 (UK), "The Titan Legions," by Rick Priestly, pp. 43-50
- White Dwarf 126 (UK), "Knights: Eldar & Human War Machines" by Andy Chambers, pp. 28-45
- Mechanicum (Novel) by Graham McNeill
- Games Workshop Online Catalogue - Imperial Knights
- Games Workshop Online Catalogue - Imperial Knight Household Spearhead
- Games Workshop Online Catalogue - The Iron Brotherhood