To prove that modernised lore about Ferrus Manus' legion can be written without being completely slaved to the past, this is going to focus on a potential successor chapter which will serve as a kind of reconstruction of old ideas. A reworking of good but flawed concepts showing what could have been even if a rank amateur such as myself even gave half a damn. However, as a warning to those reading I am going to break a few personal rules here, and this will be a work in progress. So don't be surprised if you come back and find a few things changed.
Plus the last time we did this it was about a traitor warband, so it only seems fair to look into a loyalist chapter of a similar founding.
Note - This is also the third updated version, largely a re-write of prior sections to try and make the writing a lot more coherent and removing a section of the tactics which never seemed to rub the right way.
Name: Night Watch
Origin: Iron Hands
Founding: 31st Millennium, Astartes Praeses
Primarch: Ferrus Manus
Chapter Master: N/A, Dusk Council
Battlecry: Forgethane: “Pain is fleeting!" Reply: "Victory is eternal!"
Strength: Unknown. Fourteen Companies
Standing as guardians against the eternal dusk, the grim faced warriors of the Night Watch defend the Imperium against the worst of foes. Bound by their oaths to humanity as a member of the Astartes Praeses, each warrior fights to hold back the Traitor Legions at every turn. Yet, alone among their number, they are bound to a greater cause, one which singled them out as a unique brotherhood among the Iron Hands' successors.
The origins of the Night Watch stretch back to the very moment one brother legion turned its guns upon another. Failing in his mission to turn Ferrus Manus to his side, the surprise assault by Fulgrim's bastard Children left much of the once proud Iron Hands' fleet inoperable. With many vessels unfit to combat the threat Horus' traitors posed, Ferrus and his elite Morlocks departed upon his flagship. The rest of his legion was ordered to repair their fleet and eventually joining him in delivering retribution against the turncoats.
Consisting of the damned and the dying, the Night Watch's progenitors had been drawn from the legion's ranks of Immortals, former Librarians and Destroyers. Tasked with bringing a ruined but powerful battle barge to the war on Isstvan V, for weeks these warriors braved the Warp, fighting to prove their worth to their primarch until they were sabotaged from within. Having received a shared vision of a dying Ferrus warding them away, the Librarians among them had damaged the vessel's engines, dragging them from the Warp and preventing their arrival.
Even as the Librarians were imprisoned and bionics torn from their flesh for their apparent betrayal, the astartes fought repair the extensive damage. Only after many months of repairs were they able to once more hurl themselves into the Immaterium and arrive over Isstvan V. By this time the seeds of heresy had done their work. They were greeted not by a victorious reckoning but the bloody remnants of a massacre.
The fragmented skies and craggy battlefield of Isstvan V were choked with corpses where the forces of Corax, Vulkan and even Ferrus had fallen. Many had been defiled in their death, scavenged by their murderers for their wargear and daubed in unnatural symbols of impossible angles, or impaled upon jagged eight pointed spikes. The world's air carried the scent of powder, cinders, and the decaying rot of gene-seed of two hundred thousand fallen heroes of the enlightened Great Crusade. Among them, chained aloft upon Horus' ruined fortress as trophies, were the Morlocks of the Iron Tenth.
Offering what service they could to the honoured dead, the warriors hunted for any sign of Ferrus, but no body could be found among the sea of corpses. As iron resolve turned to desperation, the warriors turned to the psykers caged in the belly of their vessel. Unwilling to trust any other legion in the face of such treachery, they followed the only course before them: The vision which had spared their lives.
Following their guidance to a system the primarch had seemingly beckoned towards, the astartes traversed the stars until finding an isolated system on the edge of oblivion. What they found on its sole orbiting world were towering dilapidated hives undiscovered by the Imperium. Populated by warring bands of primitive humans worshiping the decaying technology, of Ferrus there was no sign, but they found within its heart something terrifying. Some glimmer of reassurance that the vision was indeed true, and that the world needed to be defended at all costs.
Only the chapter's most venerated among their number, the Forgethanes and Watch Lords, know of what was uncovered amid world's cold depths. Whatever they found, be it a Key of Hel or some unknown plan Ferrus buried long ago, their discovery was enough to assure them that the primarch himself had given this command. Even after the marines were re-discovered by the Imperium during the Scouring, they refused to abandon the world, succeeding from the Iron Hands and declaring themselves a separate chapter. For until the stars themselves burn from the night sky, until the last Night Watchman is slain defending their home, they will hold the system against all traitors and await Ferrus' return. Let no quarter be given.
The Night Watch favour sledgehammer tactics with overwhelming firepower and speed, even more so than other chapters of the Imperium. Swearing that they would never again allow a force to be cut down as Ferrus and his elite Morlocks had, the chapter preaches strength, endurance and self reliance in all forms. A great deal of emphasis is placed upon the use of combined arms among its forces, with an admitted tendency towards armoured assaults and massed purges against their foes. They are Ferrus' chosen, commanded to transform themselves into monsters to defend humanity and slay the traitor wherever he stands, and to permit no weakness to endure within the Imperium. So close to the Eye itself, the chapter finds little room for half measures or mercy.
Should a planetary governor or the Arbites fail to respond in time to the threat of cult uprisings, the Night Watch will answer with calculated brutality to drive such heretics into the open. Tens, even hundreds of thousands lives lost in rooting out heresy is a tragedy. Allowing heresy to blossom into outright rebellion, risking a planet to become a temple to the Ruinous Powers is a failing for which there is no forgiveness.
Such an apparent lack of value for civilian lives is born less out of spite for weaker humans than it is simple pragmatism. Of all the Imperium's commodities, humans themselves are by far its easiest resource to replenish. In an age where the humanity relies so heavily upon relics from bygone ages, where it faced enemies on all sides, it can ill afford to hesitate in sacrificing the few for the many. Often the chapter's primary goal in responding to an invasion is to secure arcane machinery which can no longer be replaced, either fortifying or removing it entirely. Once this is done they will move out to fully combat an enemy force and purge it from the Emperor's domain.
The same willingness to sacrifice others has equally been displayed on the open battlefield. Many Imperial Guard units accompanying Night Watch detachments suffer far higher mortality rates than on other fields thanks to the astartes' willingness to hurl them against stronger foes. Whether it is to slow down a superior enemy army, bog down elite enemy troops or even draw out a vital unit into a trap, the Night Watch does not hesitate spend lives for their own end. In their eyes, the deaths of a thousand conscripts would be a worthy price to annihilate even a handful of Abaddon's irreplaceable veterans of the Long War. This ideological doctrine has soured relationships with many honoured Imperial regiments, and even Cadia itself is wary of sending its troops to assist the chapter.
Such tactics are argued by the chapter's Council as hastening victory and ensuring the Imperium's long-term survival. For while they will readily spend lives, no Forgethane will waste the forces under his command in a needless death. One favoured tactic is deploying more expendable units to draw out their foes into predetermined targeting zones, or herding them into a trap before bombarding the enemy from orbit. Against many threats such as the implacable necrons, this often results in fewer graves than if they had faced their enemy in open battle.
Beliefs and Traditions:
Steeped in prophecy, fueled by rage yet ultimately emulating the impassive logic of machinery, the Night Watch are at first glance a living contradiction. While forever adhering to the most pragmatic of approaches in war and viewing the universe through pure fact over superstition, they none the less retain a hope many chapters have long abandoned.
Whereas the likes of the Blood Angels and the Iron Hands themselves have since accepted that their gene-fathers are long dead, the Night Watch remain adamantly convinced that Ferrus will return at the end of days. This is no doubt thanks to the vision which allowed the chapter's progenitors to survive the Isstvan Betrayal, and the lengths those warriors went to ensure its survival. Entire sections of the chapter's Librarius are devoted to recordings and interpretations of the original vision, along with those which followed it. Some even contain fragmented remnants of the original vision, captured within cogitator machines and psychically resonant crystals, preserving the memories of the original Librarians.
Once every century representatives of the companies unite, gathering around the wreck of the battle barge which first brought the chapter to Silence. Here many of the Librarians have the memories channeled into them, using their minds to reforge these psychic fragments into coherent images, speaking of them to their companies. It remains as powerful now as it did those ten thousand years ago. Within the vision Ferrus is seen dragged down into the Eye of Terror as one outstretched hand reached for Silence, the other warding away his sons. Falling, his body is stripped of its flesh until only the metal beneath remains, truly becoming the Gorgon he was so often named as. Now strong enough to survive, strong enough to fight the abominations of Old Night, he plunged into oblivion to combat them.
Many have varying interpretations the vision's imagery, yet certain ones are widely regarded as fact. His hands indicated for the Night Watch to found their new home upon Silence, to not follow but await his return. His fate showed the true foe all of humanity must combat, and his transformation represented the path the astartes must take; becoming monsters of steel and adamantium, powerful enough to endure the storm which would follow.
Unlike their progenitor, the Night Watch take steps further beyond enhancing their forms and stripping away their weak flesh. Rather than simply replacing their arms, organs and senses, the astartes' bionics permanently link them into their armour. They become entombed within inches of ceramite and adamantium, irreversibly built within their armour, boosting their combat effectiveness to unseen levels. Such processes take a level of mental and physical endurance far in excess of a normal human, and it is only thanks to Ferrus' genetic gifts that any survive each operation.
The most effective examples among these are the veterans granted the honour of donning Tactical Dreadnought Armour, in which they are stripped away until they are little more than a brain and spinal column. This allows each warrior a level of endurance surpassed only by Dreadnoughts and a degree of dexterity which would otherwise be impossible thanks to their bulk. However, the armour of such veterans are often so heavily enhanced that, should one be lost, it can take hundreds of years to upgrade a new suit to the levels the Night Watch find satisfactory. Often it can take just as long to adapt new armour to a new occupant. It is believed that for this reason that fewer suits are found within the chapter than many others of the Second or even later Foundings.
The use of bionics is one of fanatical self improvement, self enhancement and building their strength to unseen levels. This is reflected upon each aspect of their chapter, and while united in their faith in their primarch, strong rivalries run between the companies. While kept in check thanks largely to their binding oaths, they are not quite so united as many other Imperial forces. Honour duels between astartes and even entire battles have been fought in the past, and while rarely to the death it can seem alarming to an outsider that such a venerated force would fight among themselves. To the Night Watch however, it is merely another method of ensuring the strongest of them endure. Every victory in a duel is proof of a warrior's right to lead, and every loss is a sign that others should be granted the Watch Lord's favour over them.
Surprisingly, despite being encouraged to give themselves totally over to the power of bionics, Night Watch refuse to totally abandon emotions. The many sermons by their Forgethanes encourage the Night Watch to embrace hatred, to use their rage to drive their every action and serve as the Emperor's Angels of Death. To the Night Watch, this rage will allow them to remain steadfast in the very face of Chaos itself, never compromising in their goals even as daemons attempt to whisper corruption into their very souls. Whereas the likes of the Black Templars express this with zeal and anger, the Night Watch cage this in cold logic. Controlled and guided, their tranquil fury allows them to perform acts of brutality and sheer savagery with a focus rarely matched by other loyalist chapters. Such acts are usually reserved for those who betrayed Ferrus at Isstvan, and once roused little can stand before their molten fury.
Much like their parent chapter the Night Watch divide their number into separate companies, with each one governing a portion of their world. Unlike them however, each is an independent demi-chapter not bound to the teachings of the Codex Astartes.
While many teachings of the Codex are integrated into the chapter's tactical doctrine, their forces do not follow its decreed standard structure. Along with numbering over the thousand astartes Guilliman limited his chapters to, the Night Watch follow a decentralised command structure with each company maintaining its own forces. Rather than being individually divided up into various specialist and battle companies, each and every Night Watch company permanently retains equipment for Assault, Devistator and Terminator forces. No single force is ever limited to a single way of war or forced to petition others for assistance in its campaigns.
While such an organisation is at least in part inspired by their philosophy of maintaining overwhelming firepower and self-reliance, it is also an act of pragmatism. It allows for their greatest veterans to be more evenly dispersed among their forces rather than temporarily attached to one company at a time. This permits for the chapter to allow its initiates to better learn from firsthand from a far greater number of their most experienced veterans.
Furthermore, while the Night Watch might lack the sheer power of a united First Company, they do not risk losing the entirety of the chapter's greatest veterans and revered suits of Tactical Dreadnought Armour to a single battle. A circumstance which would later plague many other chapters such as the Excoriators, Crimson Consuls and even the Ultramarines. It is likely for this same reason that, rather than grouped units, many such Terminator veterans are instead bestowed the duty of leading Tactical squads into battle. The numbers of astartes within each company vary heavily. Notably, while the Tenth Company numbers just under three hundred astartes at the end of M41, the Second consists of only fifty thanks to heavy casualties combating the Knights of Blood.
As with the Iron Hands, Dreadnoughts hold an especially high rank within their companies, and within each a single one selected to become Watch Lords. Valued as much for their long service as their skill at purging the Emperor's foes, their cognitive functions allow each one an unparalleled level of tactical thought and communication. Capable of filtering through hundreds of stratagems and historical accounts of combat per second, each recorded into their tomb's cogitator banks, the Watch Lords can rapidly analyse and adapt to the shifting tides of battle with ease. Directing their forces via noospheric links, a single Dreadnought can maintain total awareness of his forces and focus upon their every act simultaneously. As such, when these venerated ancients are gathered in the Dusk Council, months of debate, discussion and arguments can be resolved in mere minutes.
Due to their required slumber and periods of stasis, no single Dreadnought holds permanent rank within its company. Instead the ruling Dreadnought relinquishes its power to the next of their kind upon returning from a campaign, and their replacement takes command. Only a few are ever active at a time, and it is rare to see all ancients simultaneously awakened for war.
Assisting in directing the chapter are the Forgethanes. Along with the Watch Lords they help to make up the Dusk Council which maintains overall leadership of the chapter. Due to the slower responses and occasional mental lapses of Dreadnoughts, the Forgethanes are expected to serve as their sub-commanders; each keeping replacement Watch Lords updated upon recent events during their slumber. Along with maintaining assisting the Watch Lord and taking command of the chapter within environments their massive bulk prevents them from entering, they serve as spiritual leaders. Supplanting the traditional role of Chaplains they preach the words of Ferrus and the Omnissiah, seeking out signs of corruption or failings upon their company's ranks.
Interestingly, despite their place within the chapter's hierarchy, the Forgethanes are actively barred from undergoing all but the most basic of bionic enhancements. This provides a human face during negotiations with other Imperial forces, but in addition it ensures that there will be an immediate replacement ready to enter the sarcophagi of a Dreadnought should one fall in battle. With cybernetic enhancement so heavily encouraged among the Night Watch, few veterans can be safely removed from their armour or even retain enough flesh to register as a living being by sarcophagi's systems. This ensures that, unlike the early centuries following the Scouring, there are few empty Dreadnoughts among the chapter's ranks.
Librarians play an unusual role within the Night Watch, as they do not directly utilise their psychic potential in combat. Rather than ripping through the minds of their foes or summoning fire from their hands, they are tasked with divining the signs surrounding the Eye of Terror. Through the Emperor's Tarot, the formations of dying stars and tides of the Warp, they attempt to predict great disasters before they befall the Imperium; even divining ways to seal Warp rifts and limit daemonic incursions. As the chapter's sentinels, they maintain vigil over Silence seeking for signs of corruption and work to painstakingly maintain the pentagramic and hexagramic wards carved into their brothers' armour. However, where they gained knowledge of such powerful Warp resistant runes has long remained a mystery, and a source of great interest to the Ordo Hereticus.
Perhaps the most unique among their number are the Silent Hand. Clad in black and silver heraldry, these warriors are the most heavily cybernetic astartes not locked into a suit of Terminator armour. Unspeaking and unflinching in battle, they are a relentless force which make up the bulk of certain companies, heavily augmenting their numbers. Supposedly emulating the Medusan Immortals which assisted in founding their chapter, they are claimed to be dishonoured warriors granted one final service to the chapter. Often thrown into the heaviest fighting, they are tasked with actively drawing fire away from other elements of their companies and performing duties suicidal even for an astartes. Despite this apparent accepted knowledge, dark rumours surround the Silent Hand. Elements within the Mechanicus and Inquisition quietly whisper that they are fallen warriors whose gene-seed has been taken and then transformed into a silent automatons to help bolster their numbers, powered by some baleful intelligence. If this were ever proven to be true, the chapter would be guilty of performing acts of technological heresy, repeating the mistakes dangerously similar to the ancient Iron Men.
Located on the very fringes of the Eye of Terror, Silence is the sole world of its system, orbiting white dwarf star. Having previously been the site of terraforming and home to a thriving human civilisation prior to the Age of Strife, the planet is now broken relic. Dead, decaying cities of unknown metals dominate its hellish landscape, and deep gouges torn from its surface stand as a testament to some great conflict which almost annihilated all life on the planet.
A few million humans now stalk the ruins of their ancestors, gathered in nomadic tribes which hunt through the great halls and corridors of the vast artificial labyrinth, making use of the few functioning machines. Locked in perpetual conflict with one another, and many of their kind brought low by famine, plague or ancient security systems, only the strongest endure. This resource starved life has left them battling over any remaining machinery in operation; in turn resulting in a shamanistic worship for all human technology. It is likely in part thanks to their machine worship that the tribes bow before the Night Watch, kneeling before them as a perfected fusion of man and sacred bionics. Revering them as titans who brought knowledge of the Great Darkness and the laws of Medusa to the world, allowing them to unite against the taint of Chaos when it emerges upon their world. Tales of the chapter often revolve around an event where their original founders descended to the world's heart. Some claim they restarted it and allowed the hallowed machinery to slowly recover from its dormancy, others that they slayed a great wyrm which originally brought Silence to ruin.
Beyond survival itself, the inhabitants of Silence have little in the way of real culture. Art, poetry and the scientific understanding mean little compared to a full stomach and surviving the raids of rival tribes. With the constant fighting among petty fiefdoms and threat of environmental catastrophes, few among the fractured warring tribes can afford permanent settlements. What little possessions they retain is limited to what can be carried, or etched into their bodies. Many bear tattoos and iconography of the past, to serve as a living record of their lifespan. It is believed that when their bodies decay and their essence passes on, this tradition will allow the Emperor to judge their fortunes before his gate.
Ironically, despite encouraging a state of unending war and outright barbarism, the humans of Silence retain a far closer relationship with their astartes than many other recruitment worlds. Tribes are frequently visited by a single warrior to monitor their own hunters, observe battles and even pass on knowledge. Such beings are regarded as living temples of the Machine God, and readily interact with the humans at a moment's notice. This can be to ensure that the careful balance between warring tribes is preserved, to make sure that a conflict never spills over into complete genocide or risks damaging the precious machinery which ensures human survival among the ruins. When necessary they will even step in to protect such tribesmen from threats utterly beyond them, but such occasions are truly rare.
Beyond the ruined metropolises, no true human life can be found among the irradiated wastes. What little exists, what lurks within the sandstorms and wastelands, are little more than aberrants. Among them are outcasts, mutants and lifeforms which are the degenerated remnants of the world's once vibrant eco system. Even the hardiest of tribal warriors will rarely brave such dangers, save for acceptance within the chapter. Each and every tribesman is taught by an astartes from a young age, treated as they would any aspirant, and their final test is to hunt down and track one of the chapter's mobile Fortress Monasteries crawling among the wastes. While few survive such an ordeal, this determination to continue even as their flesh is scarred by radioactive torment is proof that they will earn their place among the Night Watch.
Despite having long been thought to hide genetic deficiencies and failings with bionic replacements, all testing of the chapters gene-seed has shown them to be pure. There is little sign of any true failings of any physical deformities despite their fanatical replacement of the flesh.