Imperial Knight House Smith was discovered during the Great Crusade M.31 in the Ultima Segmentum by the Ultramarines 131st Company, led by Roboute Guilliman. Bringing the warring noble clans together under one banner, Lord Alyxander Smith, the then-ruling head of Knight World Ferron, swore his House’s perpetual allegiance to the Imperium of Man, and the Ultramarines Legion. Since then, they have been staunch defenders of their homeland, a key agri- and mining system that supplies the Eastern Fringe. Often taking to the field to fulfil their oaths of servitude to the Imperium, they are a resolute force on the field, unyielding and unrelenting. In recent times, in spite of the renewed threat of Chaos around the Halicon Salient, the current ‘Lord Smith’ Willard Thresh has deployed most of his court of Knights to aid in the Indomitus Crusade, suffering a number of losses to the Traitor Knight warband, the “Horsemen of the Apocalypse”.
Following Alyxander Smith’s rise to power, he handed the recovered Knight Titans back to major Clans under his banner, and some of the more honourable lords of the defeated army. The initial statement of the Sacristans stands true to this day – only one Knight Titan may belong to any Noble Clan, and Smith would uphold this. Despite the collective army of Knights and their forces being under the dominion of House Smith, on Ferron, they maintain their control over their individual fiefs, using their Noble Clan names. Each Noble Clan has one Knight Titan, with some of the more powerful having an Armiger or two. Each Clan will then rule over a country-sized plot of land, and all the serfs, mines and crops in it. Each fief is defended by armsmen, and the Knight Titan that belongs to their Clan. These Titans are piloted by the lords of each Clan, with the eldest child of the current lord being next in line. Gender is insignificant to House Smith – to them, if a pilot is unworthy, then their failure in combat will prove it. If a lord is heirless, the Knight will pass on to their sibling, and downward through their lineage.
Over the countless centuries of pilots, the Knight Titans of House Smith have developed a particular quirk – their machine spirits will only bond with pilots descended from the bloodline of the Clan they have served under. As such, relation via marriage is not accepted for lineage – only relation via blood is accepted. Sometimes, blood transfusions to introduce new potential heirs are sometimes needed. Bastard children are not excluded from the hierarchy, but are prioritised after their legitimate siblings. Homosexual marriage is not prohibited, but any adopted offspring, if they are not descended from their lord parent, must undergo a blood transfusion to be accepted by a Knight. As such, with each Knight being tied to bloodline, Knights captured by other Noble Clans in civil disputes are usually handed back to the Clan they originate from. Should a Noble Clan be completely eradicated, and no surrogate blood transfusions have occurred, the Knight is wiped clean of its heraldry, machine memories, and blood preferences by the Sacristans, and given to the ‘Lord Smith’ to distribute to a new Clan.
Ranking in the court is fluid. The court is largely comprised of three tiers – the ruler, the Higher Court, and the Lesser Court. The ruler of House Smith is honorifically referred to as ‘Lord Smith’, as per Guilliman’s decree. They may not necessarily be a member of the Smith Clan, but take on the Smith name as a formality. The current ruler of House Smith is ‘Lord Smith’ Willard Thresh, the leader of Clan Thresh.
Beneath the ‘Lord Smith’ is the Higher Court. This consists of the Warders – four Barons who hold Vassal Clans of their own, as well as their own levies and Knight Titans. These positions include the Kingsward (currently occupied by the heir of Clan Smith) and the Gatekeeper (a position held by Clan Ardens).
Below the Higher Court is the Lower Court. This comprises of all the other Noble Clans of House Smith – from ones established millennia ago before Alyxander Smith, to the first generations of newly ascended peasants-turned-Noble Clans. Many of these Knights will be the lords of Vassal Clans serving under one of the four Warder Barons, but not all – these independent lords are often more free in their political drives, but may suffer without protection from a Baron.
Climbing the ladder of the courts is relatively simple, yet chaotic. If the pilot of a Knight changes, the position that Knight held becomes available for anyone in the court to take. As the Lower Court is open with no held positions, this only applies to the Higher Court and the position of ‘Lord Smith’. If the ‘Lord Smith’ or Warder Baron is to lose his throne, (by death, capture or defeat by another Noble Clan lord) then any Knight may attempt to take the throne. Each Knight pilot who wishes to claim this mantle submits their name to the Sacristans. The Sacristans then select pairs of Knights to duel on the ground outside of their sanctuary-forge. These duels are violent, resulting in massive damage to the losing knight, and often to the winner too. Withdrawing is forbidden – once a Knight is committed to the challenge, they must continue until defeat. In these duels, the lords of Noble Clans can often be killed, resulting in many Knights having fresh pilots in the aftermath. The duel concludes when one Knight declares their submission, or the Sacristans declare a winner. The winner then has minimal time to prepare for another duel against another winning Knight – this continues until one Knight is left standing. They are then declared as the new ‘Lord Smith’, or the new Warder Baron.
As a result of this system of ascension, Noble Clans need to be careful as to if they partake in this dash for power. If a Clan does not enter their name, they will not be able to ascend until another opening appears. If they do enter the challenge, and lose, then their pilot will often be killed, resulting in a new lord needing to inherit the Knight and rule of their Noble Clan, or their Knight will be damaged, leaving them vulnerable to attack from alien invaders, or even other Knight Clans seeking to capitalise on their weakness, and steal their lands. Even winning a duel can be deadly in this regard – suffer too much damage in a duel, and winning the next one will be far harder. As a result, many Noble Clans do not partake in these succession challenges, and often Vassal Clans are persuaded not to by their Warder Barons, to defend their larger combined fiefdoms.
Any Clan, from the ancient pre-Imperial ones, to the newer upstarts, may participate in these challenges. However, a Warder Baron is forbidden from participating in a challenge for the title of ‘Lord Smith’, and likewise – if a Knight wishes to enter the Higher Court or become ‘Lord Smith’, they must do so from the Lower Court.
The four members of the Higher Court are referred to as the Warder Barons – each controls the territory to the North, South, East and West extremes of the main fortress, Fort Anvil. As such, the competition to become a Warder Baron will often be limited to the Vassal Houses who served under the previous Baron, due to geographical and ancestral familiarity. Each Warder Baron is responsible for maintaining their tithes, and defending their borders from rival Noble Clans, as well as settling and resolving disputes between their Vassal Clans. Often, this means arranging a time and place for a battle between the clashing Vassals, and ensuring that the conflict does not escalate.
When House Smith is committed to a larger conflict which demands more than just a handful of Knights, the Warder Barons act as lieutenants to the ‘Lord Smith’, taking on command roles and leading their Vassal Knights to victory.
In the Higher Court, these Warder Barons also take on positions in relation to their duty to House Smith. For example, the Kingsward is tasked with the defence of ‘Lord Smith’, both on the field, and at ceremonial gatherings. The Gatekeeper is tasked with fortification, ensuring that the Sacristans’ sanctuary-forge, Fort Anvil and Ferron as a whole are protected from exterior attack. The Herald is designated as the representative of House Smith when dealing with other Knight Houses and Imperial delegations – they are also paired with the Kingsward when it comes to honour duels against other Knight Houses.