(Squats by Bryan Ansell, Nigel Stillman and Graeme Davis (White Dwarf 111))
Of all the Abhuman strains, Squats are perhaps the closest to normal Humans in physiological terms. They are allowed great freedom by the Imperium, supplying warriors and machine crews for the Imperial Guard in exchange for the comparative autonomy of their Home Worlds. This article introduces the Squat Brotherhoods and gives details of their armies for Warhammer 40,000.
THE HOME WORLDS
The origins of the Squats, like those of other Abhuman strains, lie in the Age of Strife, when warpstorms cut off many areas of the Imperium. Even Terra itself was isolated for a time, and the group of star systems known as the Home Worlds were cut off from the rest of the Imperium for several millennia.
The Home Worlds are in one of the oldest areas of Human expansion. The planets have a surprising number of common features - notably high gravity and a bleak, inhospitable environment - which some scholars have claimed are responsible for the development of the set of mutations which define the Squat Abhuman strain.
The surfaces of the Home Worlds are invariably rocky and barren, with few if any native life forms. Atmosphere is either thin or non-existent, and where an atmosphere is present the surface is lashed by violent storms.
Despite (or perhaps because of) their bleak, forbidding nature, the Home Worlds are rich in mineral deposits - these were the main factor behind the early colonisation of the planets. The richness of deep lodes, coupled with frequent magnetic and radioactive storms, led the miners to develop an underground culture. These underground settlements were dependent on vast arrays of machinery to keep them alive and to work their mines, and while physical strength and resilience were still important, a compact, stocky build was more practical than the normal Human frame in the low tunnels and cramped machine-rooms. Thus developed the two main features which distinguish Squats from normal Humans: their mechanical aptitude and their short, powerful build.
THE HISTORY OF THE SQUATS
Despite the fact that the Home Worlds were cut off for millennia, an almost complete history of the Squats survives, thanks to the painstakingly-maintained records and chronicles of each Squat stronghold. Scholars of the Administratum are still engaged in analysing the millions of individual records from the Squat Home Worlds and assessing their significance to the Imperium, but the broad history of the Squats, divided into five ages, is common knowledge.
The earliest of the Squat ages is the Age of Founding, which corresponds roughly to the Imperial Dark Age of Technology. During this period, the Squats had not emerged as a distinct race, and indeed some scholars argue that the Age of Founding should not be counted as part of Squat history. This is the age, some twenty millennia before the present day, when the first mining colonies were established on the Home Worlds. Contact with Terra was almost constant, and the Home Worlds were well-supplied for their task of winning mineral wealth from the bleak planets.
The first age of Squat history proper is the Age of Isolation which corresponds to the earlier phase of the Imperial Age of Strife, some eighteen millennia before the present. The mining colonies which would later become the Squat Home Worlds were isolated from the rest of the Imperium by terrible warpstorms. So close, indeed, did these storms come to the mining colonies that some planets and small systems were sucked into the seething Chaos and never seen again. The severing of contact with Terra led to continual shortages of fuel and foodstuff, and the miners were forced to become self-sufficient, developing considerable technical expertise in the process. The mining colonies became independent strongholds, trading amongst themselves and sharing resources and discoveries. It was during the Age of Isolation that the Engineers Guild first developed as a social and political power within Squat society, and strongholds began to group together in Leagues formed by complex political and trading agreements.
A slight abating in the warp storms led to encounters with alien races in the Age of Trade. While the rest of the Imperium was still locked in the wars of the Age of Strife, the Squats made contact with both Orks and Eldar. At the beginning of the Age of Trade, some strongholds were attacked, but the aliens quickly realised that the Squats were determined and tenacious fighters, and that trade was a more practical arrangement. The Squats took full advantage of their tremendous mineral wealth, which they traded for weapons, foodstuffs and high-technology systems. To this day, Squat hydroponic plants, developed with Eldar help, are among the most efficient food sources in the Imperium. The Squats remained carefully neutral in the numerous conflicts between Eldar and Orks, maintaining trade links with both sides. There were inevitably small wars from time to time, but for the most part the Squats' complex structure - of treaties and trade agreements maintained a stable peace.
The Age of Trade lasted for nearly three millennia, but finally collapsed when an enormous Ork battle-fleet, under the command of Grunhag the Flayer, attempted a full-scale invasion of the Home Worlds. Losses on both sides were astronomical, with vicious tunnel-fights through the mine workings and bloody pitched battles in the Squats' underground settlements. The Squats appealed to their Eldar trading partners for help against the invading Orks, but none was received.
The Age of Wars, as it became known, is regarded by the Squats as the blackest chapter in their history, and the double betrayal by Orks and Eldar gave rise to a cultural enmity which still persists. Many strongholds were wiped out by the Orks, and the traditional epic ballad known as The Fall of Imbach commemorates one such destruction. Even today expeditions are mounted from the Squat Home Worlds in search of lost strongholds, and these expeditions are often accompanied by Adeptus Mechanicus personnel, eager to rediscover lost Squat technology.
The final phase of Squat history is the Age of Rediscovery, which continues during the present day. As the Imperium recovered from the Age of Strife and began to re-unite the scattered worlds of Humanity the Squat Home Worlds were rediscovered and contact with the Imperium was re-established.
The Imperium found that a distinct culture had developed on the Home Worlds, and that the Squats had moved outwards through the galaxy, extending their domains. Often they settled harsh planets similar to their own Home Worlds, but they also occupied more conventional worlds able to support normal Human civilization.
SQUATS AND THE IMPERIUM
The Squat Home Worlds are almost unique in the Imperium, as they are not directly controlled by the Administratum. Instead, they are allowed a certain amount of autonomy, being ruled by their strongholds and Leagues just as they were before the Age of Rediscovery. The experiences of the previous millennia has left the Squats with a strong sense of cultural unity and a fiercely independent nature, and instead of rejoining the Imperium as subject worlds, the Home Worlds negotiated a series of treaties which enabled them to keep their independence. The racial character of the Squats - hard-working, tenacious, honourable, and inimical to alien races - is almost perfect from the Imperial point of view, and the Imperium is content to allow them a great degree of self-government.
In exchange for their comparative freedom, the Home Worlds provide troops for the Imperial forces, and trade their mineral wealth exclusively with the Imperium - trade that has made the Squats a wealthy race. They also undertook at the start of the Age of Rediscovery to allow the Adeptus Mechanicus unrestricted access to their technology; it is significant that the Squat Home Worlds have a higher incidence of working Standard Template Construct equipment from the Dark Age of Technology than any other group of worlds known to Humanity.
The Squats rule themselves in all internal affairs, but are expected to follow Imperial policy on wider matters. There has never been any conflict on this point, largely because Squats as a race are not greatly interested in what goes on beyond their strongholds and Home Worlds - their long period of isolation has made them an inward-looking race.
Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the relationship between Squats and the Imperium is that Squats do not follow the Imperial cult, Instead, they practise a form of ancestor-worship, venerating the dead of their clan and their family. Every Squat joins his ancestors on his death, adding his honour to that of his forebears, but a part of his name and his honour remains with his living descendants, forming a constant link between the living and the dead. Squats are very careful to ensure that their deeds in life will add to the glory of the clan and its ancestors; they guard their reputation fiercely, and will go to great lengths to blot out a disgrace to their honour or the honour of their clan.
When Squats serve alongside the Imperial Guard, they adopt certain aspects of the Imperial cult, incorporating them into their own ancestor-worship. The Imperial line, as preached by the Imperial Guard Commissars who come into contact with Squat forces, is that the ancestor-spirits of the Squats are watched over by the Emperor, and Squats are happy to accept this idea and participate in the rituals of Emperor-worship on those terms.
SQUATS AND CHAOS
To the shame of the Squat race, there are many strongholds and Brotherhoods who have sided with Chaos. During the wars of the Horns Heresy, Squat forces fought on both sides, and inevitably some fell prey to the corruption of Chaos. Like the other followers of Horus, these have now largely been banished to the Eye of Terror, but there are always rumours of isolated groups of Chaos Squat raiders in various parts of the Imperium.
It has even been rumoured that some of the strongholds which were lost to the warpstorms in the Age of Isolation may have survived, their horribly-mutated inhabitants raiding into the Imperium from time to time.
The Squats are the most Human-like of the Abhuman races, standing about two-thirds the height of a normal Human with a stocky, powerful build. Their hair is very strong and fast-growing, and most Squats cultivate short-pointed beards, or at least moustaches and sideburns. Despite their short, thick-fingered hands, Squats have a very high degree of manual dexterity, and are able to operate the most intricate machinery with ease.
Squats are extraordinarily long-lived by normal Human standards. A lifespan of three hundred years is normal, and some Squats, known as Living Ancestors, are often so ancient that their true age can only be guessed at.
In character, Squats are an honourable race, but they are also irascible and often short-tempered. In battle they are renowned for their doughty resolve and tenacity as warriors. Coupled with their amazing abilities as miners and workers of metals, this has made them a valuable asset for the Imperium.
Squat society is based on the stronghold. A stronghold may be a surviving mining community from the original colonisation, or a so-called newbold, founded when the race expanded during the latter part of the Age of Isolation and the early part of the Age of Trade.
Strongholds are self-contained, autonomous communities, ruled by a hereditary Squat Lord and an aristocratic class known as the Heartbguard. They are comparable to the city-states of early Terran cultures, and a great number of strongholds may coexist close together.
Strongholds join together into Leagues for mutual defence, trade and other dealings with the Imperium. A League may vary in size considerably; the League of Emberg, for instance, consists of four strongholds, while the powerful Kapellan League is made up of over three thousand. Each League is ruled by a High Council, comprising the Lords of each member stronghold. The High Council debates all matters which affect the League as a whole, and ratifies trade and other agreements on behalf of its member strongholds; it also serves as a court of appeal for cases which involve the death sentence.
There is no formal organisation between the Leagues on any Home World, although they maintain constant communications and act together In time of war.
Traditionally, each stronghold centres around a mine and the underground settlement associated with it, although as the race expanded in the Ages of Isolation and Trade, different types of world were colonised by the Squats and some strongholds are not associated with mining activity.
Each stronghold is ruled by a hereditary Lord, who is supported by a powerful body of retainers known as the Heartbguard. It is the Hearthguard which provides the elite core of a Squat military force, as well as providing servants and advisors to the Lord himself. When the Lord takes to the battlefield in person, the Hearthguard fights as a unit under his command. In most strongholds, the Hearthguard has become an aristocracy, composed of a limited number of families or clans.
The principal military force of a Squat stronghold is its Brotherhood or War-Brethren. Each Squat has an obligation of military service to his stronghold, and can be called to serve for a period of 30-70 years in the Brotherhood. However, because Squats live long and breed slowly, a tradition requires that a Squat may not be called to the Brotherhood until he has sired and raised two sons to maturity, which in Squat terms is the age of 70 Terran Standard years. Thus, the continuity of the race is not threatened by its military activities.
When his period of service has expired, a Squat returns to his stronghold with honour (and hopefully not a little wealth). He then takes up a position of responsibility in his family's business, having reached full adulthood by virtue of his military experience.
Although the Brotherhoods are the main defence forces of the strongholds, they are far better known for their mercenary activities. In time of peace a stronghold's military forces are traded in the same way as its other resources, either to fight for the Imperium or to other strongholds. As war is an honourable profession for a Squat, these mercenary adventures are rarely resented - indeed, they are regarded as an integral part of every Squat's life.
On occasion, unscrupulous or incompetent Squat Lords have sent Brotherhoods into impossible situations, especially in the inter-League squabbles which were widespread during the Ages of Isolation and Trade. This problem has been largely resolved by the practice of placing one of the Lord's close relatives - known as a Warlord - in command of the Brotherhood, ensuring that no undue risk is taken and that the honour of the stronghold is not compromised.
Some particularly adventurous Lords may send out their stronghold's Brotherhood on expeditions, regarding these as little more than an extension of their other business activities. The term expedition' is rather loosely defined, and these ventures can range from a search for a stronghold that was wiped out in the Age of Wars, to an expansionist action against alien races, to a full-blown campaign of piracy. Some Brotherhoods have turned to buccaneering as a profession, amassing wealth for an honourable return home, the booty being distributed between the pirates themselves and the Lord of their stronghold. Squat Reavers, as they art known, are strange by normal Human standards - their single-minded attention is directed purely on financial gain, and they will attack any worthwhile target with grim and implacable resolve, but completely without prejudice or malice.
In the Age of Rediscovery, the Squat Home Worlds have undertaken to provide the Imperium with a tithe, which takes the form of Brotherhoods being sent to serve with the Imperial Guard, or indeed as complete Squat forces under the Imperial banner. Space Marines are noted for their intolerance to Abhuman races, whom they see as tainted and genetically impure, and the Admiistratum will not generally post Squat troops to areas where they will be in close contact with Marines.
THE ENGINEERS GUILD
Like so much of Squat culture, the Engineers Guild traces its origins back to the Age of Isolation. Squats as a whole developed a considerable technical expertise in order to survive without support from Terra, and there was a regular traffic between strongholds in mechanical supplies and techniques. From this traffic arose a distinct class of travelling engineer, moving constantly between strongholds, spreading knowledge and solving technical problems. The Guild arose to protect these individuals, who often found themselves caught up in inter-League wars a long way from their native strongholds.
The Guild soon developed into a real power throughout Squat society, and Engineers enjoy a considerable prestige. The most gifted offspring of each stronghold are inducted into the Guild at an early age, and intensively trained in all aspects of technology, engineering and machine maintenance. Although a Squat is not deemed to have reached maturity until the age of 70, gifted youngsters may join the Guild at 40 or even 30 years of age, though in doing so they must renounce all family ties and rights to inheritance.
The Guild is by no means as rigidly structured as the mainstream of Squat society. Ability counts for everything, and age, birth and background are of no account. The Engineers see themselves as unencumbered by petty traditions, while most stronghold Squats would describe them as disorganised and anarchic.
The Engineers Guild is sub-divided into a number of Lodges, each with its own leadership, symbols, customs and rituals. Clothing, equipment and vehicles tend to be marked with the symbol of the Lodge rather than that of the Guild, although all Squat Engineers wear the Guild symbol of a hammer as a pendant. The technical jargon of the Engineers Guild varies slightly from Lodge to Lodge; an Engineer from one Lodge can make himself understood by a member of another Lodge if he wishes, or can make use of his Lodge dialect so that an outsider cannot understand him when he discusses technical matters.
Each Squat stronghold has an enclave of Guildsmen, even though individual Engineers come and go as they please or as the Guild orders. The Engineers renounce all stronghold allegiances on joining the Guild, and do not mix a great deal with the other Squats of a stronghold. Sometimes, an Engineer may leave the Guild and join a stronghold through marriage - even so, his sons will almost certainly join the Guild in their turn. And while Guild members may attach themselves to a particular stronghold for years or even generations, they move on at will, and owe their true allegiance to the Guild alone.
Squat Engineers have a very characteristic appearance, which to Human eyes seems to contradict the high esteem in which they are held by the rest of their race. They wear no helmets and their hair is grown long, being either tied or greased back. They favour well-worn leathers and other hard-wearing working clothes, with tough monkey boots, usually scuffed by the constant knocks and battering they take. Many Engineers add bandanas and mirror shades or goggles to their outfit, often jauntily pushing their goggles up onto their foreheads. They travel light, not generally bothering with anything they cannot carry on the bikes and trikes which are as much a status symbol as a means of transport.
Because of their wandering lifestyle, Engineers are more adventurous than the bulk of Squats, are often found serving with Brotherhoods on the battlefield, or even hiring themselves and their machines out on a mercenary basis, working throughout Imperial space and beyond. Individual Squat Engineers with impressive reputations may be directly recruited by the Imperium, and some have been known to reach senior positions within the Adeptus Mechanicus.
The typical lifespan for a Squat is about 300 years. A small proportion of the population, however, reaches the age of 400, and once a Squat has lived this long, his chance of longevity is drastically increased - lifespans of 800 years are common among this group, and there are some individuals whose true age can only be guessed at.
This small proportion of the Squat population which lives to great old age is treated with enormous respect, being known as Living Ancestors or Spirit Lords; they are treated as living members of the ancestor group which forms the basis of Squat religion. Their long lives have filled them with wisdom, and they are their Lord's most respected and trusted advisors.
Also, at about the age of 500, certain physiological changes begin to occur. As age begins to sap their speed and strength, they develop an incredible degree of mental and physical resilience, along with certain psychic powers. The fact that psychic powers are practically unknown amongst other Squats makes the Living Ancestors doubly venerated. These psychic powers come from their spiritual closeness to the dead ancestors of their clan, which they tap as a source of psychic energy. Their strength as psykers is directly related to the prestige and honour of the stronghold's ancestors, and the higher the status of the ancestors the more powerful are the Living Ancestors.
When a Squat reaches Living Ancestor status, he surrenders his name and his goods to his descendants, just as if he had actually passed on. A funeral ritual is held by his clan, and the new Living Ancestor goes to live with others of his kind.
As well as advising the Lord of their stronghold, the Living Ancestors often accompany the Brotherhood in battle providing defensive psychic support and advising the Warlord.
ON THE BATTLEFIELD
Squat forces may be found on the battlefield in a number of circumstances.
They may be serving with Imperial Guard forces or the forces of a Rogue Trader, to take part in an Imperial conflict as part of their Home Worlds' tithe of service to the Imperium. As well as using single Brotherhoods to fight alongside other Human and Abhuman troops, the Imperium uses complete Squat armies to impose its will.
Squats may be fighting on their own account, defending their stronghold or taking part in an inter-League dispute or other local conflict - given the volatile temperament of most Squats, it is not unusual for Brotherhoods of adjacent strongholds to go to war, fighting for territory, mineral wealth or over some slight to the honour of the stronghold.
They may have been hired out by their Lord as a mercenary force to serve in some foreign conflict, although they will not generally serve alongside Orkoids or Eldar unless they have turned to Chaos. Squat mercenaries can also be found serving with Imperial forces, or with other Squats - it is traditional for Lords to hire their forces back and forth to serve in each others' conflicts.
They may have been sent out as Reavers by their Lord, or may have taken to buccaneering of their own accord.
Regardless of the circumstances, the Brotherhood organisation remains the same.
There are four main troop types in any Squat force: the Hearthguard, the Brotherhood, the Engineers Guild and Living Ancestors.
WARLORD AND HEARTHGUARD
To guard against the misuse of Brotherhood troops by unscrupulous stronghold Lords, a Brotherhood force is, always led by a close relative of the Lord, known as theWarlord. Under his personal command is a unit of the Hearthguard, drawn from the Lord's loyal retainers, who form an aristocratic class in the stronghold.
The Hearthguard is a warrior elite, and their status is reflected in their fondness for lavishly-ornamented gold jewellery. Belts, buckles, chains, pieces of armour and even weapons are decorated with traditional designs in gold and other precious metals, and a Hearthguard's prowess is displayed in the form of these decorative items.
It is traditional for a Lord to present a Hearthguard with a gift in recognition of valour and loyalty, which is nearly always specially made - sometimes by the hand of the Lord himself, the highest of honours - and is often decorated with scenes of the event which it commemorates. These trophies are handed down from father to son, and a leading member of a long-established Hearthguard family can be expected to take the field resplendent with priceless antique jewellery. Unlike the normal Squat principle of succession, where everything passes to the heirs on a Squat's death, a Hearthguard cannot inherit his dead father's jewellery and trophies until he has won his first trophy on his own account; he then inherits his father's name, along with his full panoply of jewellery and equipment. The adopted name of a Hearthguard commemorates the greatest deed of his father, and will remind him and his companions of his ancestor's fame.
Because of their richly decorated equipment and other trophies, the Hearthguard are very individual in their appearance, and do not wear any kind of uniform. Each Squat's equipment and jewellery tells of his own deeds and those of his forebears, and the Hearthguard vie with each other in the distinctiveness and splendour of their appearance. Archaic and mediaeval styles are very popular, with lavish decoration in traditional patterns. It has often been remarked that a Warlord and his Hearthguard on their motorbikes bear more than a passing resemblance to the armoured knights on horseback who may be found in many mediaeval cultures.
Rather like the knights of mediaeval worlds, Warlords and Hearthguard often have magnificent suits of exo-armour, all-enclosing, sealed and self-powered environment suits built for them by the Engineers Guild. Like other Hearthguard equipment, exo-armour is handed down from father to son, and is perhaps the proudest status symbol of the Squat military aristocracy.
One detail which is common to the whole of the Hearthguard is the stylised image of a Squat face, which appears on armour, helmets, pendants and other pieces of jewellery. This is an image associated with Squat ancestor- worship, representing the spirits of the ancestors watching over their descendants.
The bulk of a Brotherhood's troops are those who are referred to simply as 'Brotherhood'. These troops lack the individuality of the Hearthguard, wearing the colours and insignia of the Brotherhood as a uniform. Squats prefer muted colours reminiscent of the rocks and sands of their Home Worlds: browns, greys and greens are popular in varying shades and mixtures, as are black, white and deep red - it is common for seams and piping to be picked out in a contrasting colour.
Those Brotherhoods who are sent out reaving tend to be more individual in their dress; in most cases they wear their own clothing rather than a uniform, so that their home stronghold cannot be identified. However, Squats who have made a career out of piracy are as flamboyant, in their own way, as the most ostentatious Hearthguard. Often they will adopt distinctive uniforms and colours, so that they are immediately recognisable; in this way, their fearsome reputation does half their work for them.
Brotherhood troops are generally armed with lasguns, but the Squats have a characteristic fondness for heavy firepower, and heavy bolters are a favourite weapon. Most squads will have at least one heavy weapon, and sometimes an entire squad may be equipped with heavy weapons. Since no Squat would consider himself fully dressed without at least one sidearm, it is not unusual for Squats to go about armed to the teeth as a matter of course. Most citizens of the Imperium carry a sidearm and a blade weapon as part of their standard dress, but Squats are renowned as particularly fond of weaponry. This fondness is reinforced by the hostile environments in which they are usually raised, where dangerous flora and fauna, and the constant threat of Ork and Eldar raids, encourages even the youngest of Squats to pack a few hand guns and something loud and heavy on his bike.
Just as the Engineers Guild has a constant, if shifting, presence in each Squat stronghold, so most Brotherhoods are accompanied by some Engineers Guild troops. Engineers wear a personalised uniform' of leathers over T-shirts or singlets, with individual decoration such as fringes and studs. Lodge symbols, and the universal hammer symbol of the Engineers Guild, are worn instead of stronghold and Brotherhood badges. Guildmasters are more elaborately dressed, usually wearing heavy and ornate chains of office.
Apart from their dress, the other most distinctive feature of Squat Engineers is their motorbike and trikes. These are universally favoured by Engineers as a personal transport, and some have been adapted for battlefield use by the addition of weapon mounts. The Engineers make more extensive use of bikes on the battlefield than almost any other troop type.
Living Ancestors take the field in small numbers with Squat forces, drawn from either the stronghold or from the Engineers Guild, to provide sage advice for the leaders and psychic support for the warriors. Their psychic abilities concentrate on defence, but they are by not entirely incapable of attack. Living Ancestors are distinguished by their high-collared robes, with collars rising above their heads, and their ornate neck-chains.
Living Ancestors from the same stronghold always have the same level of power. Their psychic energy is directly tapped from the stronghold's ancestor spirits, and their power varies with the prestige and status of these spirits.
Stronghold banners are largely heraldic, bearing the symbol of the stronghold and sometimes a motto or slogan. Brotherhood banners tend to be more elaborate, with a central picture surrounded by ornate borders containing battle honours and slogans. The picture may be of the Brotherhood's most famous exploit, or a design such as a Squat braining an Ork or Eldar with a hammer.
Brotherhoods in Imperial service may be presented with Imperial banners like those of the Imperial Guard. They may use the Imperial banner instead of, or as well as, their stronghold banner - but are unwilling to part with their Brotherhood banner.
The Engineers Guild has its own standards, which feature the central motif of the Guild hammer or a Lodge symbol. Guild banners are decorated to a lesser degree, and tend not to be as elaborate as those of the Brotherhoods.