40K Lore: Chariots of the (Demi)Gods
Today Loremasters we turn to the largest mobile vessels of the Astartes – The Rock and The Phalanx
The Rock, also known as the Tower of Angels (or Spire of Angels), is the legendary home and fortress-monastery of the Dark Angels Space Marine Chapter. The Rock is an immense and powerful ship, capable of blasting even powerful Eldar fleets into oblivion during the Battle of Midpoint. Fully equipped with both Warp Drives and force fields, it is also home to many ancient and arcane technologies the Dark Angels have accumulated over the millennia. Overall operations of The Rock are overseen by the Master of the Rock.
The Rock is thought to be a remnant of Caliban itself that survived the destruction of the world at the end of the Horus Heresy. The Rock travels around the galaxy and visits most of the Dark Angels’ recruiting worlds, and the Watchers in the Dark patrol its halls; an example of a Watcher is the small hooded being that follows Supreme Grand Master Azrael around, carrying the Lion Helm. The Rock is larger than any conventional class of Imperial warship and is capable of laying waste to entire fleets with its massive array of weaponry. The Rock is further protected by a constant escort of Frigates and squadrons of Thunderhawk Gunships.
Deep within the bowels of the Rock are cells in which the Fallen Angels are held. Luther is imprisoned there, kept alive over 10,000 years after his costly betrayal of the Dark Angels. Luther rants and raves, claiming that he has no need of repentance or confession, for the Lion – who he claims is near – will soon return and absolve him. Unbeknownst to any, the sleeping body of Lion El’Jonson is hidden in the heart of the Rock, guarded by the Watchers.
Phalanx is the mobile fortress-monastery of the Imperial Fists. Officially, the homeworld of the Imperial Fists is Terra, but in functional terms the Chapter has been fleet based and used Phalanx as its primary base of operations throughout its entire history.
The origins of Phalanx are contested in the background material, of which there are two accounts:
- The Index Astartes entry for the Imperial Fists holds that the origins of the starship are unknown, but is believed to have been constructed during the Dark Age of Technology, predating the Imperium. In this account, the vessel was discovered by Rogal Dorn prior to being reunited with the Emperor of Mankind. Upon encountering his father for the first time, Dorn was manning the helm of Phalanx, which he offered to the Emperor as a gift. The Emperor declined and willed that Dorn use the ship in carrying out his command of the VII Legion.
- The Lightning Tower by Dan Abnett gives a more recent but far less extensive account, stating that Phalanx was built by Rogal Dorn himself and evidences his excellence in constructing fortresses.
By M32, the Phalanx was already in a state of decay. Built to sustain a Legion, it was far too large to be garrisoned by a mere Chapter of Space Marines. Most of its vast docking bays were deserted, and the Imperium’s inability to replicate its ancient technologies resulted in even minor damage creating significant operational troubles. Thus, during the War of the Beast, the Phalanx was moved to the area of space between Terra and Venus so as to not risk it against the Ork Attack Moons.
The Phalanx appeared during the Thirteenth Black Crusade over Cadia, destroying the Blackstone Fortress Will of Eternity after its shields were disabled by Space Wolves under Sven Bloodhowl. When Cadia was destroyed, the Phalanx led the Imperial evacuation fleet out of the system.
The capabilities of Phalanx are substantial. Entire portions of the vessel are used to emulate different combat environments for training purposes. Her foredeck is so large that it can dock a dozen large cruisers and has developed its own ecosystem, complete with unique species of animal life that have had their own evolutionary history aboard the ship.
As of the beginning of the Horus Heresy, the starship featured a gallery that displayed the battle honors of the Imperial Fists, which stretched for kilometers. The ship continues to house Chapter honors and relics. Among the most prized are the Remains of Rogal Dorn and the battle honor Roma.
Sources differ on the general shape and exterior character of the ship. The different descriptions include:
- A structure of “towering forests of spires interlaced with flying buttresses”
- A structure that leads observers to believe Phalanx “might have been a planetoid or minor moon,” perhaps implying a spherical shape.
- A ship that is “many kilometers long, triangular in cross-section with its upper surface bristling with weapons and sensorium domes. Two wings swept back from the hull, trailing directional vanes like long gilded feathers. Every surface was clad in solid armour plating and every angle was covered by more torpedo tubes and lance batteries than any Imperial battleship could muster” and with “thousands of battle-honours and campaign markings all over the beak-like prow.”
~ Which do you think would win in a battle?