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Long before the rise of the Emperor and the birth of the Imperium, during the Age of Technology, humanity reached out to the stars, eager to occupy new worlds and expand its burgeoning interstellar empire. Vast colonisation starships carried eager human settlers, along with all the resources they might require, and landed on far-flung, often isolated worlds many light years from Terra.
The first Knight Worlds were founded at the very start of the Age of Technology, when scouts from Terra travelled far through the galaxy seeking planets to use as agricultural worlds to provide food for Mankind's burgeoning population, or as mining colonies to provide the materials needed to fuel their expansion across the stars. Indeed, the Knight Worlds had already been established for thousands of standard years when the Imperium was first founded in the 30th Millennium. When those first human scout ships discovered a suitable planet for colonisation, gigantic spacecraft were dispatched to settle them. These ships were part of Terra's Long March fleets, named after the duration of their voyage and their destination among the stars. The name was apt; each of the Long March colony starships carried thousands of settlers on a decade-long journey to a far distant planet. Upon arrival, the colony ship would land and be immediately cannibalised by the colonists to provide the raw materials needed for their first settlements; there was no hope of return to Mankind's distant homeworld.
The struggle for survival on many of these worlds was grim. On some, the settlers found themselves the prey of vicious predators or were attacked by native alien races, which saw the human settlers as invaders. On other worlds, extreme weather conditions or an unbreathable atmosphere made travel outside of domed habitat-zones next to impossible. However, problems like these had been anticipated, and in order to deal with them, the settlers were supplied with Standard Template Construct (STC) databases and fabrication facilities that allowed them to build powered suits of exoarmour. The pilots of these bipedal walking machines were protected by a hard shell of Plasteel and armed with an array of military-grade heavy weapons. The suits proved invaluable: few, if any, natural predators or hostile alien warriors could stand against them, and they could travel through even the most dangerous environment with ease. The Imperial Knight Standard Template Construct (STC)s were upgraded to include subliminal stimuli intended to ensure the birth of a cadre of colonial defenders in preparation for Mankind's exodus across the stars, the better to prepare the nobles who would be responsible for the protection of others on the new worlds.
A Knight suit is a potent and deadly weapon, but without its noble pilot it is a hollow shell. The human component in the core of every Knight suit is its heart and mind both, a man bestowed with the martial might of a demigod. The process of bonding with a Knight is a dangerous one however, an apotheosis that not every aspirant survives. Knight suits are ancient machines, with complex and often belligerent Machine Spirits (artificial intelligence) to match, and only the worthy may break such a beast to their will. Knights are controlled in a similar fashion to the great engines of the Titan Legions, through mind impulse control links that allow the pilot to wear their Knight suit like a second skin. Indeed, the fluid direction that a noble has over his Knight allows an ease of movement bettered only by the alien war engines of the Eldar. However, where the Princeps of a Titan will often inhabit an amniotic tank or be cybernetically and permanently bound to his war engine's bridge, the nobles who pilot Knight suits interface with their towering machines through the device known as the Throne Mechanicum.
At the heart of every knightly stronghold is a single ancient massive building known simply as the Sanctuary. It is here that the suits of Knight armour are stored when not in use and where the nobles undergo the ancient rituals and procedures that allow them to bond with their Thrones Mechanicum. These Sanctuaries are incredibly ancient structures, built when the original human Long March colony ships first landed on the Knight Worlds during the Age of Technology. The essential functions of the Sanctuaries also originate from that time, though the changes and modifications made to the equipment over the millennia mean it would be unrecognizable to those that first installed it.
It is in the Sanctuary that young nobles undergo the bonding process that imprints their personality into a Throne Mechanicum, in a procedure known as the Ritual of Becoming. This process takes place in a special room known as the Chamber of Echoes. The imprinting process is a lengthy, sometimes dangerous, business. It has become a rite of passage for young nobles -- the process of leaving behind their childhood once and for all. When he is old enough, a son of the household who is designated to become a noble is fitted with the sacred neural sockets and then undertakes a vigil, remaining seated in the Throne Mechanicum that has been assigned to him throughout a long night in the Chamber of Echoes. The nature of this ordeal, and the inherent dangers associated with the neural interfacing process, mean that more than a tenth of all supplicants are either driven mad by the process or suffer fatal aneurysms brought about by neurological feedback. Assuming it is successful, the imprinting process has two important side-effects. Firstly, the imprint tends to exaggerate dominant aspects of the young noble's personality, especially with regard to the emotions he is feeling during his vigil. If he is scared, the imprint on the Throne will always be of a nervous tendency, making the suit difficult to control in combat. If the noble is angry with someone, the imprint will always loathe that person, even if the noble himself has long since forgiven or forgotten them. When a noble dies, his Throne Mechanicum retains some of his character, and these ghosts whisper to each supplicant through the long vigil in the Chamber of Echoes.
However, in addition to imprinting the noble's personality upon the Throne Mechanicum, the mind-link technology directly affects the personality of the noble himself. It does this by implanting strong positive associations to notions of fealty, obligation and societal hierarchy, as well as a deep and almost mystical respect for the noble's ancestors. Exactly why and how these things are made to happen is something of a mystery, but it seems most likely that the mind-altering feedback routines were intentionally included by the device's original designers to limit the potential of a noble to go rogue and turn on the people he was meant to protect. Once a Throne Mechanicum has been imprinted, it is stored in the Communion Dome, which lies atop each Sanctuary. This chamber is large and circular, with walls that are lined with all the Thrones Mechanicum of the household's nobles. When a noble wishes to interface with his suit of Knight armour, he sits upon his Throne and instigates the Protocols of Joining. Umbilical cords attach themselves to the noble's neural sockets, and then a section of wall behind the throne yawns open. The Throne Mechanicum slides backwards, and descends from the Communion Dome through a series of transport tunnels, before finally sliding into the waiting cockpit of the noble's suit of Knight armour. This final step in the process takes place in a massive hangar known as the Vault Transcendent, which forms the ground floor of the Sanctuary. This huge hall is large enough to hold all of the stronghold's Knights. As soon as noble, Throne and Knight armour are united, the three become as one, and the Imperial Knight powers into life. Vast doors open in the outer walls of the Sanctuary, and the Knight strides forth to battle.
The link between a Throne Mechancium and its Knight suit is a strong bond formed in the fires of war down through the centuries of constant warfare. In some instances, when a pilot is slain, it is not unheard of for a Knight suit's Throne Mechanicum to take control in the midst of combat. In one the most famous instances, this occurred in 854.M40, when a trio of Knights from House Krast joined the Space Marines from the Ultramarines Chapter to defend the Mining World of Gorvax agianst a host of Eldar Ghost Warriors from Iyanden Craftworld. A Knight suit's Throne Mechanicum took control after its pilot was slain by a xenos sniper, and the echoes of spirits long dead guided the unmanned Knight into battle once more. The Knight carved its way through countless wraithbone constructs before two Wraithknights, the largest and mightiest of the xenos walkers, finally brought it down in an epic duel of giant war machines. Though the Eldar were eventually defeated, victory on Gorvax did not belong to the living.
Throne Mechanicum VariantsEdit
The first Knight suit was one of the countless technological wonders created on Mars during the Age of Technology. The pioneering nobles of House Taranis became the original Imperial Knights, and piloted the very first prototypes, fresh from the forges of Mars' industrial heart. Uniquely amongst the nobles of the other knightly houses, however, the subtle mind-altering technology was noticeably absent from the Thrones Mechanicum of Taranis' Knights. This was in part due to the fact that the Martian nobles who became the first Knights were already fiercely loyal to their Mechanicum overseers and House Taranis was an integral part of Mars' military infrastructure. The root of this difference comes from their unique past, and the role they have played as part of the Adeptus Mechanicus for hundreds of centuries. The first nobles of Mars were skilled pilots and favoured Enginseers, who understood their machines in ways their contemporaries could only hope to achieve. As the Knight suits developed, so too did the nobles, their personalities subtly changed by extensive neural connection to the Thrones Mechanicum. In time the growing sophistication of the Thrones and the Knights themselves meant that only those with a certain genetic makeup or biological heritage would make the best pilots. This led to the formation of knightly houses on Mars and preferential treatment for these special servants of the Machine God.
- Codex: Imperial Knights (6th Edition), pp. 6-7, 12-13, 104
- The Imperial Knight Companion (6th Edition), pp. 7, 80
- The Imperial Truth (Anthology), "The Devine Adoratrice" (Short Story) by Graham McNeill