The Martian Edicts
|[//Martian delegation; heralding the declaration of the Martian Edicts+]|
+ Yes, this epoch finds Mars much reduced in strength and influence; our reach alone less sure and steady than Terra’s in concert; but fraternity allows objection without threat. That we are together but apart is key. In the spirit of clarity:
We come in peace.
...And yet... And yet, if Terra intends Mars to be a subordinate sibling, then the fact remains: we are the elder. This seniority grants us suzerainty of purpose+
[//Declaration of peaceful intent: from the preface to the Martian Edicts of Nero-Gollos, voiced via Transcribe+]
While nominally Mars was held as the High Altar and Prima inter pares of the Forgeworld, the parochial and inward-looking Cult Mechanicus was still recovering from the Great Schism when the broader Imperium faced the crisis posed by the False Primarch. Several centuries had passed since the Horus Heresy, which had seen the Mechanicum of Mars split and cast down, before being reformed as the Adeptus Mechanicus.
|[//Ïa! ïa! Holy Mars!+]|
Far more than a mere renaming, the followers of the Machine God were now officially a subservient appendage, rather than an empire-within-an-empire. Mars had similarly lost its pre-eminence as a central node for the increasingly superstitious and conservative Mechanicus.
By the time of the War of the False Primarch, Mars remained a critically important symbol, but its temporal reach had been hugely curtailed. Principal Forgeworlds across the Imperium – Ryza, Triplex Phall and others – were considerably more wary of sharing their data with Mars. In addition to the physical and material losses of the Great Schism, the Horus Heresy had proven to be a loss of innocence and idealism within the Machine Cult.
Nevertheless, despite its reduced power and influence, the Martian Magi of the Adeptus Mechanicus had long memories. Indeed, many had direct or inherited experience of the Heresy owing to their unnaturally extended lives. This, along with their former status and critical nature, afforded them a strong voice within the Senatorum Imperialis, and the seat of the Fabricator-General on the High Lords had – thus far – always belonged to a Martian native.
|[//Mixed groups of Protectors and Myrmidons are a common sight on Mars’ dusty roads, a sign of the great work that still continues to reclaim the Red Planet for humanity.+]|
“Travel on Mars is perilous. The skies are still scanned by ancient automated weaponry, so vast sections of the Red Planet can only be traversed on land. The roads between settlements are long, and the ruined cities that they pass through are best avoided, for the horrors of Old Night still linger there.
That these journeys are merely dangerous, rather than suicidal, is down to the dutiful labour and endless sacrifice of the Order of Protectors. The Protectors are one of the Red Planet’s oldest institutions, founded in the very first days of the Machine Cult to escort believers as they ventured from their bunkers out into Mars of Old Night.
While in the forges of Tharsis Protectors are increasingly used as law enforcement or as the personal guard of individual Magi, in the wilder parts of Mars they retain their original function. Less regimented and more individual than their Skitarii comrades, Protectors in the polar South of Mars have a certain reputation for flamboyance, as they try to live up to the romantic legend their predecessors forged. Small groups of Protectors constantly walk the roads between the isolated settlements of the Planum Australis, culling as they go anything deemed a threat to the faithful.
They are often joined in their patrols by members of the warrior Myrmidon cult. Myrmidons will often sate their desire for battle by joining Protector congregations on patrol, and many veteran Protectors will take holy orders and become Myrmidons themselves."
[//From the later Books of Ares+]
Fabricator-General Nero Gollos
Partially as a result of the fall in status of Mars, and partially because of ongoing discrimination and supsicion of the Cult Mechanicus from those without its circles, the office of Fabricator-General at this period was commonly looked upon with suspicion, both within and without the Cult.
Some amongst the Cult regarded the Martians as having failed; others saw the Fabricator-General as an upstart, little more than a stooge who relied on the Terrans for influence. As a result, the office struggled to assert authority amongst the Forgeworlds. On the status of Volnoscere, the so-called 'False Primarch', Nero-Gollos could ill-afford another major point of doctrinal division. The Adeptus Mechanicus simply could not afford to appear weak to any of the powerful Cult philosophies' interests. Satisfying the spectrum of their wildly differing views and philosophies was a difficult line to tread; and one that favoured a moderate approach.
|[//Nero-Gollos, the Fabricator-General (Principal ambulatory form)+]|
The appearance of the False Primarch could yet prove a disaster to Nero-Gollos personally. The Fabricator-General's alliance with fellow High Lords Umbwald Oreangelo, Chancellor of the Estate Imperium, and Isaacsen, the Paternoval envoy of the Navigators, was thus tenuous and forced.
Outwardly happy to play on the supposition that the Adeptus Mechanicus was coldly distant from the 'sentimental' return of a Primarch, in truth the Fabricator-General simply could not afford to make a hard decision on the False Primarch's nature, for fear of isolating and dividing the famously independent Forgeworlds. Taking sides with a personal opinion and presenting a clear hero- or villain-narrative of the Primarch would have been all but impossible within the Cult's strictures without isolating powerful potential allies. Coupled with the need to balance the Adeptus Mechanicus' internal policies with the duties of Imperium that the office of Fabricator-General required, and Nero-Gollos was forced into an unhappy series of abstentions and prevarications in order to buy time.
Unless and until the 'Primarch' made a deliberate move that brought him into direct conflict with basic tenets of the Cult, he was always likely to win as much support as scepticism amongst different philosophies within the Cult. Choosing either side would thus inevitably cause divisions within the Cult Mechanicus, leading to Forgeworlds withdrawing from the tendrils of Martian influence. Again, these were divisions Nero-Gollos could ill afford.
|[//Partisan techpriest, prior to the first invasion of Coldforge. Note Caputmori marking+]|
Nero-Gollos met with dismay Inquisitor Lord Leong-Casser's reports on the region. Of the two dozen Forges Minor in the Sectors, there was a roughly even split between those who had declared for or against the Partisan cause, while a minority had – bravely, given their astrographical isolation from potential support – stood by the Fabricator-General's initial demand for neutrality. Worlds like Achillax, who regarded the False Primarch as an avatar of the Machine God, came into immediate conflict with Orthodox-leaning systems such as Canticle-IX, leading to open warfare between Mechanicus clades.
|[//Skirmish on Canticle-IX Forge between pro- and anti-Primarch factions+]|
While the Principal systems of Kadath, and Neo Jove had likewise begrudgingly accepted Nero-Gollos' dictate of neutrality in the affair, Forgeworld Heliopolian had, under the occupation of Autek Mor of the Red Talons, declared against the False Primarch. The notoriously independent and opportunistic Magi of Forgeworld Avarice, meanwhile, were publicly supplying both sides in the war, gleefully taking all-comers' assets and capital in exchange for an expanding sphere of influence. Nakedly ambitious, Avarice was feeding both sides of the war, exploiting the desperate needs of the Firebreak and Death Eagles to advance its political aims even as it supplied arms to both.
In this, at last, Nero-Gollos saw a route out of the crisis.
The Martian Edicts
The Martian Edict was rooted in the origin of the Forgeworlds themselves, and the ancient precedent of self-determination and self-protection. The vast majority of Forgeworlds were settled prior to the ascent of the Emperor, in the lost and distant past when the warp was all but impossible to traverse.
During this period, pre-Imperial Mars sent expeditions and settlers, each protected by a force of their own Titans, out into the unknown. Many, perhaps most, were lost, but all across the galaxy, some found new planets to settle. Over time, these were to become the Forgeworlds. With little to no communication with Mars (or indeed any other planet) the settlers were forced to rely on their own ingenuity and interpretation of Cult teachings to survive.
In the Imperial era, and after Unification, many Forgeworlds resented oversight and the dominion of Terra and Mars. Many of these were lost in the Great Schism, as they followed Horus and the Dark Gods into secession. Of the remainder, many remained independent in spirit. It was to this spirit that Nero-Gollos elected to appeal; aiming to comply with the demands of his political allies in the Senatorum Imperialis without overly antagonising the other sides of the argument.
Nero-Gollos' solution was cautious, but – critically – rooted deeply in Cult doctrine. The Fabricator-General declared that Forgeworlds must internalise their objections or support for the Primarch – that is, they must not transmit or spread any information beyond their own Altars; and even this material was to be sequestered to high-ranking Magi. This appealed to the more independently-minded Forgeworlds of the region such as Avarice, and was happily accepted by those more amenable to oversight, such as Coldforge and Octos Forge.
|[//A Magos of the notoriously anthropocentric Octos Forge reviews a hard copy of the Martian Edcit with his flesh-eyes.+]|
Nero-Gollos' political fudge was largely a delaying tactic. Essentially agnostic on whether the 'Primarch' was genuinely a returned Primarch or merely a powerful imposter, the Fabricator-General had bought time for the Adeptus Mechanicus to gather that most critical material – information. Simultaneously, the Martian Edict provided a sop for the more belligerent players in the drama: a promise of Mechanicus neutrality. Critically, the Martian Edict stopped short of demanding action or inaction, and in so doing, tacitly allowed for Forgeworlds and Mechanicus forces both regional and brought in with Inquisitor Enoch's Extinction Armada to operate as they would.
For Mars and the Forgemaster-General, swift victory for either side was not desirable, whereas time to study – and perhaps capture – Volnoscere and his pseudolegion, promised to reveal much of interest to the Adeptus Mechanicus of their recently-lost past.
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[//Embedded hidden string closing the Martian Edict+]
Politically expedient though the Martian Edict might have been, it was poorly received in the Heliopolis Sector. Rocked by the revelation that the Silver Stars numbered in the multiple thousands, and with his all-conquering fleet stymied and held in a grinding stalemate, the Orthodox High Command was shaken. Privately, Master Enoch raged against the Fabricator-General's 'vacillating and weak' decision – one of the rare rages that was shared by those of the Pentarchy Commanders. Dwimmerlock, Gorn and Autek Mor sent furious missives to Enoch, who passed the anger on to his superiors in the High Lords – to little effect. While the War of the False Primarch was an existential threat to the status of the Senatorum Imperialis, it was far from the only one. Enoch and his warriors would have to fight without the considerable aid of the Mechanicus – or at least only those forces already present.
Of those, one particular element was critical: Titans.
Initially, both Titan Legions: Punica the Twice-Bound and Validus, the Kings in Yellow, had been split and spread across the battlescape; dictated by the Codex Imperialis as standard practice. Better suited to the duty, owing to their abundance of Skitarii (and Punica's paucity thereof), Validus spent most of the early part of the War patrolling Heliopolis in support of the Red Talons and Death Eagles II. Aside from two Validus Maniples that attended the initial invasion of Ishim, it was Legio Punica – deployed in support of the Charnel Guard, Flesh Eaters and Death Eagles I on the Deplhurnean Front – that were principally engaged during the early part of the war.
The early part of the war – and particularly the first invasion of Ishim – revealed that deployment of the Orthodoxy's Titan Legions was met with no concomitant Engine resistance. The implication was clear: powerful as a Space Marine Legion might be, the Silver Stars seemed to have no Titan support.
|[+Cockpit screen-capture from Legio Punica Scout Titan, during the first invasion of Ishim+]|
With the local Forgeworld bound to limited action, the local Legios were unlikely to walk in support of either Partisan or Orthodoxy. This provided Enoch with an ace in his hand; perhaps one equal in impact to the Pentarchy of Blood itself: the supremacy of two entire Titan Legions.
Realising this, much of the mid-war period was therefore spent in safely shepherding the Engines of his Legios to safer regions. No effort was spared by Master Enoch in keeping their movements secret and safe – with the intention that he could use them to orchestrate a killing blow against the Partisans on the deadworld of Null.
[//identstring: Legio Punica+]
|[//Engine Walk: Legio Punica move, supported by recon elements of the Charnel Guard+]|
'Formed in the dark madness of the Horus Heresy, the origins of Legio Punica are lost, save for in the dwindling number of Titan’s machine spirits that have remained in service since the Legion's creation. Only the Princeps and Moderatii who pilot these ancient machines gain access to secrets as they bond with the Titans and are forbidden from sharing them with anyone but their crews. The nature of the inception is not one that reflects well on the Legio – and it is one they prefer to keep hidden.'
[//My Time Amongst the Machine-priests, a Memoir – Howtopher Buxcraft+]
As part of the 902nd Expeditionary Fleet during the Great Crusade, numerous smaller Titan Legions had come together with Legiones Astartes elements to combat a large Hrud migration heading toward Segmentum Solar from the galactic west. Intended to give combat experience and build cohesion between the Astartes elements and the newer Legions that had been brought back into the Imperium as part of the Great Crusade, the Fleet’s main engagement took place in the Chiros system.
The mission was ultimately a success, despite heavy casualties as the hands of the Xenos. Alas, a dreadful fate was to befall the fleet as perfidy revealed itself amongst the Astartes. Trapped by the warp storms unleashed at Calth, the Astartes forces began infighting. Overtures were made by both to the various Legios were made, with no consensus among the different factions reached. Even whilst the Astartes warred with each other, a grand conclave was hurriedly convened between the various remaining command elements of the Titan Legios.
Few had more than a single titan left and did not want to take up arms against either party without more information, which was so lacking with the warp storms raging. It is not known what stirred the conclave to remain loyal, but by the time they had made the decision, the Space Marines had all but annihilated one another. In his final moments, the Ultramarine commander marked them for censure, stating that their inaction was tantamount to treachery. This did not sit well with the Legios arrayed, and the conclave knew that should word of this get out to the wider Imperium, they would be destroyed. An extreme measure was taken: all Legions present would cast off their old heraldry and form a new, composite Legion. This was to ensure that the Titans present would be able to continue their service despite their vastly depleted strength and allow them to remain above scrutiny.
A new colour scheme was hurriedly rolled out; and as a mark of respect – and perhaps a tacit acknowledgment of their previous failings – the composite Legio marked their Titans heads red, in line with the Ultramarines' practise for marking those for censure. The bodies were to be a light blue, reflecting the morning skies after the night of the confusion and fratricide that took place on red sands of Chiros.
|[//Legio Punica heraldry and iconography: typical contemporaneous example+]|
As the Horus Heresy engulfed the Imperium, no investigation or retribution ever came for the newly-founded nomadic Legio – and afterwards the Imperium could ill-afford making new enemies. Having demonstrated their loyalty during the Great Scouring, As a result, the Legio was allocated the recovered Lycia system by the newly-formed Adeptus Mechanicus. They found the system to be less than ideal. Lycia was a small, specialised Forgeworld, with little capacity to cater for the Legion's needs. A key feature that was in the Legion's favour was the presence of House Argus, a Questor Mechanicus Household that had made Lycia its home since prior to the Great Crusade. An agreement was struck between Argus and the formative Legio: the Knights of Argus would support the Legion on campaign in return for Punica returning to defend the Forge World if required. Lycia’s primary moon, Xanthos, was gifted to the Legion as a fortress and base to help achieve these ends, along with materiel and a conveyor fleet.
Despite Lycia’s best efforts, the Legion received no reinforcement after their arrival on Xanthos, nor could the Forgeworld adequately create new Engines. Its strength was only stabilised by the absorption of extra-legion Titans – either last remainders of an allied Legio Maniple; battle-salvaged relics; or – on occasion – desperate donations from Legios that had lost the ability to maintain their Engines due to attrition or disaster. This led to strained relations with the more zealous elements of the Adeptus Mechanicus and Collegia Titanica, but so long as the adoption is approved by the Legio in question, it was broadly tolerated.
It is this practise that led to the Legio's Low Gothic name – Twice-bound – as this is often the second time a Titan is consecrated into a Legio.
Punica’s organisation is largely similar to the Collegia Titanica standard, aside from the higher positions. Each Titan is afforded a large degree of autonomy: Punica cares little for the strict traditions of their elder brethren, preferring to forge a tradition of martial prowess above extravagant ritual. They are unable to field any Skitarii or Secutarii Auxilia due to Lycia’s isolationist stance of its forces remaining on the Forge World itself. This occasionally led to hampered operational effectiveness during the War of the False Primarch, as Enoch was jealously unwilling to deploy Engines of Punica without support from Imperial Guard units – occasionally even Pentarchy forces were cajoled into acting as Titan support in battle.
|[//Reaver-class War Engine deployed in support of Charnel Guard forces on Artex+]|
Given the diversity of cultures that have come to make up the Legio's mongrel ranks, discipline is maintained not though ritual, but prowess and insight. Punica's staff operate on a strict meritocracy, where elevation to Senior Princeps and above is decided by the other members of that rank. This has caused its own share of internal strife, but has generally ensured that the senior ranks of the Legio filled with talented and driven staff. Given the lack of support from the Mechanicus, this focus of efficiency is key to the Legion’s continued survival.
The position of Grand Master of Legio Punica is split into two roles: Lord-Hierophant and Lord-Legate. The Lord-Hierophant is the heart of the Legio on Xanthos, looking after the numerous duties that come with managing a Titan Legion. Key amongst these responsibilities is chairing the conclave than meets regularly to discuss matters such as promotion and recruitment.
The battle leader of Punica is known as the Lord-Legate. They take responsibility for the military matters that will concern the Legion, having the Lord-Hierophant to deal with all others. In contrast, this role changes more often, as a number of Lord-Legates have given their lives in battle. A conclave is called on Xantos to elect a Legate whenever required and the pilot who can persuade their brethren of their martial prowess with be chosen as the new Lord-Legate. It is not unknown for the incumbent to be challenged and ousted if their support wanes. This has caused the Legion problems in the past, with Lord-Legates changing quickly, but one thing remains true: the leader of Legio Punica is a capable and stalwart servant of the Imperium, who will lead the Legion ably into battle.
The Warmaster-class Titan held by the Lord-Hierophant of the Twice-bound, Praelectus Patrem is the most venerable Titan in the Legion's vaults. Predating the War of the False Primarch by more than a millennium, it has fought on countless worlds and against numberless foes. As the years march on, this elder member of the Twice-bound becomes more aloof in spirit and harder to rouse to action. Only in the direst of circumstances do the enginseers and tech-priests on Xanthos undertake the rituals to prepare this ancient weapon to walk the world once more. A being heretically claiming – even implicitly – to be the Son of the Omnissiah is such a circumstance.
Second only in age to Praelectus Patrem, Hekatochirus also took part in the Great Crusade and has a record of almost continuous deployment since the Scouring took place. Equipped with long range weaponry, Hekatochirus was often found at the centre of Punica deployments during the War of the False Primarch, directing the smaller Titans whilst delivering fire to where is can be most effective. At the period, it was habitaully the Titan used by Keter, the incumbent Lord-Legate.
Lord-Hierophant Grigori Arlanti A veteran of many campaigns, Arlanti has won the respect of the Legio through a career defined by consistency. In his advanced age, Arlanti has stepped back from the battlefield to manage the myriad tasks that consist the running a Titan Legio. He is renowned for his patience and level-headedness in decision making, a key part in his election to the position of Lord-Hierophant. His detractors say he is too slow and old for the role, but in the years of his tenure, the Legion has grown in strength and stature.
Relations with Lycia and other Imperial worlds in the region had been made stronger than ever under his direction. Despite his years, he is still a formidable warrior who will fight as he always has for the Legio and the Imperium; and he fatefully piloted the ancient Titan Praelectus Patrem during the events of the Machinedeath on Null.
Lord-Legate Julian Keter In contrast to Arlanti, Keter ascended quickly and was still relatively young for a senior Princeps during the War. An unorthodox tactician, he came from an old family in the Imperial Guard. His upbringing gave him a deep understanding of battlefield tactics. Using this, his exemplary record easily outweighed his youth in the eyes of the majority of the Legion.
Disposition during the War of the False Primarch
Commanded by writ of the High Lords, communications arrived only after the Execution Armada had formed. Fortuitously, the Legion was preparing to go on exercise after a particularly long period of rest and recuperation. Their initial instructions were to rendezvous with the Charnel Guard at Morgant and to defer to their command, supporting them with their operations in the growing conflict. House Argus were asked to join them. With many Knight pilots not having been off-world for years, they did so willingly.
Why exactly the Legion was told to support the Charnel Guard over the other members of the Pentarchy was never revealed, though rumours of this being a sign of the High Lord’s favour abounded.
|[//Machinedeath: Defiant Silver Stars remnants are mopped up by Knights of Argus as Punica Engines move on+]|
|[//Legio Validus Engine+]|
‘I spent a mortal lifetime searching for what is good; and beheld then Titans. Ever after, I have searched for what is right.’
[//Aphorisms, Polyphy, M41+]