The Brethren of Hel are a notorious Chaos Warband that is known for raiding multiple Imperial systems near the hellish Warp rift known as the Eye of Terror. Formerly known as the Iron Invictors, this one-time Loyalist Chapter was Founded as a Successor Chapter of the ancient and unforgiving Iron Hands Legion. This Chapter, along with the Iron Gorgons, Sanctors of Manus and the Templars of Iron, formerly made up a quadrumvirate of 2nd Founding Iron Hands Successors, collectively known as the Frateris Firmitatis ("The Ironclad Brotherhood").
This Chapter was once counted amongst the most stalwart defenders of mankind. But like their Progenitors, the Invictors were obsessed with strength and the elimination of physical and mental weakness, which is subject to decay and temptation, and believed to have been a contributing factor to the failure of the Loyalist Legions during the Dropsite Massacre at Isstvan V. This led the Iron Hands to revere the machine and distrust the failings inherent in flesh. But the Iron Invictors' obsession with certain forbidden mysteries and nightmare sciences of the Dark Age of Technology eventually saw them being declared Excommunicate Traitoris, and cast out of the Imperium.
For millennia, the fleet-bound Brethren of Hel have periodically raided Forge Worlds and far-flung Adeptus Mechanicus outposts near the Eye of Terror - obsessed with obtaining rare standard template constructs and the secrets of archaeo-technology forbidden by Imperial dictates and the edicts of the Martian Priesthood. They are relentlessly pursued by their erstwhile brethren, who will stop at nothing to eradicate this Renegade Chapter of hereteks.
The Brethren of Hel are an infamous Renegade Chapter who continuously seek out forbidden tech-lore that defile the Omnissiah's gifts, imperil the soul, and taint the holy form of the Adeptus Astartes. They willingly perform the very crimes which nearly destroyed all humanity and toppled human civilisation from the zenith of its power in the dim horrors of Imperial pre-history.
The Brethren of Hel Warband can trace their lineage back to the dark days of the Age of Darkness during the Horus Heresy, which began in the waning years of the Great Crusade in the latter 30th Millennium. During this turbulent time, they were still one of the Clan Companies of the stoic and unforgiving Iron Hands Legion. They were originally Legionaries of the outlaw Kaalibos Clan (nicknamed the 'Iron Butchers') - a bellicose and brutal clan whose Legionaries were notorious even on Medusa for their sheer ruthlessness in battle. They were led by their ferocious commander, Iron-Lord Malevos Gurges, a predatory warrior who was darkly-famed for his exploits during his early years fighting in the Terran Unification Wars.
Alongside the other proto-Legions created during the latter days of the Unification Wars on Ancient Terra, the recruitment of Legionaries for the X Legion was relatively widespread, with elements drawn from all over Ancient Terra. In particular, the warlike culture and renowned brutality of the population of Old Albia, which supplied substantial numbers of recruits for the X Legion, had a great deal to do with the Legion's early character, lending them a fierce pride in a warrior ancestry that predated the Legion's founding. Malevos Gurges was a part of the X Legion's first induction of recruits, and is believed to hail from the region of Old Albia. His earliest recorded campaigns were those where the X Legion was utilised as part of larger Legion taskforces in the closing stages of the battles on Ancient Terra itself.
Assigned to the 11th Chapter (nicknamed the 'Invictors', or the 'Unconquered'), this bellicose formation quickly earned an infamous reputation for their calculated bloodlust and rage they would unleash upon their foes, often leaving a scorched wasteland in the wake of one of their brutal assaults, choked with bodies and broken war machines. Their penchant for bloodshed and heavy-handed tactics soon earned them the unofficial sobriquet, 'Iron Butchers' by their detractors they had fought alongside during several Imperial Compliances.
Even after their reunification with their Primarch Ferrus Manus and the subsequent reorganisation of the X Legion and imprinting of his will upon the newly renamed Iron Hands, the 11th Chapter, now known as Clan Kaalibos, maintained their obstinate behaviour towards authority, even to their newly discovered Primarch's rule, which would be a source of enmity between the newly raised Iron-Lord Malevos Gurges and his Primarch. During the Great Crusade, both Gurges and his Clan were continuously noted for their single-mindedness when it came to the elimination of their targets, down to the last man. With no love lost between Gurges and his Primarch, his clan was often utilised in the capacity of assault or breacher squad roles. The Kaalibos Clan were also assigned the onerous duty of taking part in suicidal 'Zone Mortalis' campaigns or 'Forlorn Hope' objectives, a role in which the fearless legionaries of this brutal clan excelled at.
Despite the odds often being severely stacked against them, their ferocity, determination and stubbornness in the face of overwhelming odds, saw them emerge bloodied, but victorious. Like their unforgiving commander, the warriors of Clan Kaalibos utilised an array of bolters, volkites and various chain-weapons for melee combat. The Kaalibos Clan was censured on multiple occasions for their brutal assaults and bloody-handed ways, which often left nothing alive in their wake and caused unnecessary collateral damage to the infrastructure of a potential newly compliant world. Though their methods were extreme, often the slaughter they enacted left those few survivors almost childishly eager to accept the Emperor's servants and to willingly accept Imperial Compliance under any terms as long as they were spared the wrath of the 'Iron Butchers'.
The Horus Heresy
Clan Kaalibos would later take part in one of the most notorious campaigns during the opening years of the galaxy-wide conflict that would come to be known as the Horus Heresy. Enraged at Horus' treachery, Ferrus Manus and his warriors gratefully received the Emperor's orders through his brother Rogal Dorn. Together with the Raven Guard and Salamanders Legions, the Iron Hands were to confront Horus and his lieutenants on the world of Istvaan V and crush them utterly. A second wave, comprising the Night Lords, Iron Warriors, Alpha Legion and a contingent from the Word Bearers Legions, would follow them and support their initial attack.
After the initial assault, Corax and his Brother Primarch Vulkan led their forces back to the drop site to regroup and to allow the warriors of their recently arrived brother Primarchs of the second wave a measure of the glory in defeating Horus. But instead, they were met with the fire of betrayal roaring from the barrels of a thousand guns, as the second wave of Legionaries revealed where their true loyalties now lay. The Iron Hands were undone by their own hubris and the blade of the Traitor both, and paid a heavy price in the brutal slaying of their Primarch and the near-crippling of their Legion's strength. Though left a shattered Legion, the cold fury of the Iron Hands' bitter vengeance would afterwards be writ across the stars.
Of the hundreds of thousands of Legiones Astartes warriors committed to the initial drop, ten thousand more would be cut down in the brutal pursuit that followed and the titanic void battle that ensued between the Traitor and Loyalist fleets throughout the Istvaan System. In the solar days and weeks following the Dropsite Massacre, elements of the Iron Hands, Salamanders and Raven Guard were scattered far and wide across the northern Imperium, having been forced to make hastily plotted Warp jumps to escape the Traitors' ambush. Of these surviving forces, were Iron-Lord Gurges and several squads of Clan Kaalibos, who somehow managed to fight their way clear of the brutal crossfire in the Urgall Depression, make their way to waiting Thunderhawks and Storm Eagle gunships, and fled into orbit.
Despite sustaining severe damage to their transports, they miraculously managed to limp back to their vessel, the Gorgon's Wrath, and fought their way clear of the system, dogged by murderous pursuit. Comprised of mixed elements of multiple Legions, Gurges began his own war, fought beyond the sight and the staying hand of the newly created Iron Council, the ruling body that oversaw command of remnants of the X Legion following the supposed 'death' of their Primarch. With his indomitable will, Gurges was able to meld the forces under his command into a coherent whole. He successfully prosecuted a deadly guerrilla war, carving a swathe of blood and ash across the void in memory of a dream which had turned to nightmare with the Warmaster Horus' betrayal at Istvaan.
The Keys of Hel
- "What are the Keys of Hel? They are the fires taken from the mountain. They are what should not and must not be. Only in the last days of humanity, when law has no meaning, should any think to break the locks placed upon them. These are those days."
- — The Ghola ('Revenant') Crius, Iron Father and Lord of Clan Kadoran, formerly of the Crusader Host, during the Horus Heresy
Those few Iron Hands of Clan Kaalibos that remained had seen betrayal, atrocity and unthinkable carnage on an unimaginable scale. They had all become hardened veterans who had survived against all odds and now trusted only in the warrior next to him in the line of battle. For their fellow battle-brothers they would fight and die and strive to see another dawn, but for great cause or distant and uncaring masters, they had nothing but scorn. Iron-Lord Gurges and his warriors were determined to have their pound of flesh, and were willing to resort to any means necessary in order to achieve their goals. Thus, they turned to the use of technologies forbidden by the writ of their Primarch's own hand - the so-called Keys of Hel - the seals which had been placed upon the principles and forbidden knowledge that was deemed heretical or too dangerous.
Throughout the Great Crusade, the X Legion had encountered such elements of forbidden technology or lore, and recognised it for what they were. They were seized and suppressed by the Primarch's express order and withheld, it was rumoured, even from the Mechanicum. Few outside the X legion knew of the ban placed by the Gorgon on such forbidden technology. Even amongst his own sons, few knew more than the name of such forbidden tech and, of those who did know, most grasped only shadows of dark possibility.
Cyber-resurrection was one of the rites of cybermancy. The application of this forbidden technology was one of the forbidden nightmare technologies from the Dark Age of Technology. Following the death of their Primarch Ferrus Manus on Istvaan V, some of the Iron Hands Iron Fathers became desperate enough to turn the Keys of Hel, and resorted to the use of such forbidden rites. With it, they were able to resurrect their fallen brothers to a semblance of life. Known as 'Ghola' or 'Revenants', these resurrected Legionaries still retained their memories and were even capable of speech. When not awake, they were kept within a cryogenic state at sub-life support temperatures until they were needed for battle. But over time, these revenants gradually became slower and slower the longer they spent away from their cryo-stasis chambers.
The ghola were death and life bound by field, woven by metal and sung by axioms of the unknown. They were the evolution their gene-sire had placed beyond their reach, the lock upon a gate to a denied realm. They had walked through those gates, and now stepped between stolen moments amongst the living. They walked with fire, pain and hatred for all that had brought them there, and for all that had been lost.
Through the use of such forbidden techniques, repeated resurrection was possible even after a Revenant was "killed" again. Some Iron Fathers, such as Malevos Gurges, who utilised cybernetic resurrection, modified the standard operating protocols of their own cryo-stasis vault to protect it against catastrophic shut-down by utilising neuromorphic sub-routines which bordered on Abominable Intelligence.
- "You have broken the decrees of our father. You have passed beyond. You have turned your back on the Gorgon. You are not of the Iron Hands. You are its shame."
- — Proclamation made by the Iron Council during the Trial of Iron
Warband Home World
- "This was always the way. The old Medusan way. He made the wrong choice, the weak choice, the choice of flesh and sentiment, not iron. If he was stronger I would not have been able to kill him. Death is the consequence of weakness."
- — Attr. to newly promoted Sergeant Thorios Kratr, after the death of his squad's former sergeant, following an honour duel.
Notable Brotherhood of Hel
When the Brethren of Hel were still known as the Iron Invictors, they primarily wore steel gray coloured power armour, with the exception of the insets of their shoulder pauldrons, which were black in colour. The Chapter iconography was proudly displayed on their left shoulder pauldron, while each individual Clan Company icon was displayed on the right shoulder pauldron. A white coloured squad specialty symbol (Tactical, Assault, Devastator and Veteran) was indicated on the chest guard or worn on one of their greaves, which indicated an individual battle-brother's combat role. A white colored lozenge (diamond symbol) on the left poleyn (knee guard), with a black coloured Gothic numeral stenciled upon it, indicated squad number. Sometimes the Chapter's livery was also displayed on the right poleyn. Red binaric language engraved upon various parts of a battle-brother's power armour was believed to be a visual representation of Lingua-technis, the holy language of the Omnissiah. Imperial scholars also believed this cryptic language referred to the mysterious inner orders of the Chapter, and was also an indication of veteran status.
Following their corruption by the Ruinous Powers, the Brethren of Hel Warband took on a darker aspect - bearing armour as black as their souls. The insets of both shoulder pauldrons as well as both greaves are now coloured bright red. They still adorn various parts of their battle-plate with red-coloured binaric language, except now, it is believed to represent the corrupted language of the Dark Mechanicus as well as praising the Dark Gods. Their armour is often adorned with spikes, chains and the bones of their slain foes as well as the usual various blasphemous sigils and various iconography of Chaos.
As the Iron Invictors, they proudly bore a stylised representation of the Opus Machnina, which took the form of a hyrbid symbol comprised of a half human and a cybernetic skull, which represented the divine fusion of human flesh with the holy machine. This ancient symbol was also used to represent both their ties to the Adeptus Mechanicus and their religious faith, the Cult Mechanicus. This symbol was centered within a large white cog icon.
Following their corruption to the ruinous powers, the Brethren of Hels' warband icon took on a more corrupted form, reminiscent of their Dark Mechanicus allies as well as their allegiance to the Ruinous Powers.
The Brethren of Hel have a strong alliance with the traitorous hereteks and fallen tech-priests of the Dark Mechanicus, for they both choose to follow the path of tech-heresy - for both are enthralled to the power of the warp and the never-ending search for forbidden, heretical technologies. The Brethren of Hel maintain ties with several Hell-Forges - fallen Forge Worlds dedicated wholly to the Dark Gods and controlled by the Dark Mechanicus. These infernal forges of the the fallen heretek scions of the Cult Mechanicus are wholly given over to daemon-machines and infernal industries, where mills grind flesh and suffering is the currency used to make the insane visions of their nightmarish masters real. The Brethren of Hel often trade their ill-gotten, ancient technology and lost Standard Template Constructs for these powerful infernal daemon engines, vehicles and arms and equipment, in order to continue their eternal quest to obtain coveted technology and to prosecute their eternal war against their former brethren of the Ironclad Brotherhood.
Following the death of their gene-sire and betrayal on Isstvan V, the seed of heresy was planted within the souls of the surviving warriors of the X Legion's 11th Chapter, who would come to make up Second Founding Iron Invictors Chapter. Struggling to merely survive during the desperate days, following the disaster in the Isstvan System, these surviving Iron Hands warriors willingly turned to the use of ancient and blasphemous technology, forbidden by the edicts of their own Primarch. But with his death, there were those who were willing to use any means at their disposal, to wreak terrible vengeance against the forces of the Warmaster, no matter the cost.
Following the Second Founding and the sundering of the Legiones Astartes, the 11st Chapter formed the basis for the newly created Iron Invictors Chapter. Finding themselves of like-mind and temperament, alongside such Chapters as the Iron Gorgons, Sanctors of Manus and Templars of Iron, they formed a coalition known as the Frateris Firmitatis or 'Ironclad Brotherhood. The Iron Invictors were counted amongst the most stalwart defenders of mankind. But like their Progenitors, the Invictors were obsessed with strength and the elimination of physical and mental weakness, which is subject to decay and temptation, and believed to have been a contributing factor to the failure of the Loyalist Legions during the Dropsite Massacre at Isstvan V. This led the Iron Hands to revere the machine and distrust the failings inherent in flesh. But the Iron Invictors' pathological obsession with certain forbidden mysteries and nightmare sciences of the Dark Age of Technology eventually saw them being declared Excommunicate Traitoris, and cast out of the Imperium.
Despite their outcast status, the newly renamed Brethren of Hel managed to eke out a brutal existence amongst the swirling eddies and unknown tides of the outer regions along the massive warp rift known as the Eye of Terror. For millennia, the fleet-bound Brethren of Hel has continued to periodically raid Forge Worlds and far-flung Adeptus Mechanicus outposts near the Eye of Terror - obsessed with obtaining rare standard template constructs and the secrets of archaeo-technology - forbidden by Imperial dictates and the edicts of the Martian Priesthood. They are relentlessly pursued by their erstwhile brethren from the Ironclad Brotherhood, who will stop at nothing to eradicate this Chaos Warband of hereteks.