Who is the Queen Bee?

I’d like to offer a glimpse into some of the lore and history of the Imperial Knight Freeblade called Queen Bee, and her pilot, Aurelia Tibbetts. Most of my blog readers and Twitter followers never read through the huge Bolter and Chainsword WIP thread in which much of this evolved.

Enjoy, and feel free to ask questions or point out bits that need some attention.

Lady Aurelia Tibbetts’ history (condensed)

House Tibbetts Imperial Knight crest

The crest of House Tibbetts

Lady Aurelia of House Tibbetts is the first-born daughter of a noble; a powerful man who held the right to pilot one of the house’s mighty suits of Knight armor. She was passed over for the honor of piloting her own Knight, an honor that was given instead to her younger brother, whom she considered weak and unworthy. Not content to brood, Aurelia acted out in court, venting her frustration in a series of rebellious scandals. Her sense of injustice was vindicated in the worst way when her brother died during the Ritual of Becoming, and she was abruptly thrust forward as an alternate candidate despite her terrible reputation. While trust from her peers was hard-won, she proved her worth time and again until they had no choice but to begrudgingly offer their respect.

As the last survivor of House Tibbetts’ 3-strong Knight lance during an arduous campaign far from home, Aurelia made the difficult decision to take the oath of the Freeblade and became Oathsworn to serve alongside the Eagle Eyes chapter of Space Marines after they had saved her life and recovered her family’s relics. She repainted her Knight and christened it the Queen Bee to honor its unique personal heraldry (proudly displayed on the tilting shield). Now she operates from the base of the Eagle Eyes, a remote feudal world named Tonatzin, and maintains her Knight with the help of a small group of natives she’s personally trained in place of Sacristans. Her relationship with the Adeptus Mechanicus is strained, as they endlessly seek to commandeer the other two Knight suits of House Tibbetts for their own purposes. She flawlessly utilizes these now-dormant god-machines as leverage to obtain the raw materials she needs, but she refuses to let the sycophantic Adepts near the Queen Bee itself.

The Blood-Soaked Mistress

Queen Bee tilting shieldThe true history of the Queen Bee’s iconic portrait is lost to the ages. It’s speculated that it was once a prurient lewd illustration intended to please a hedonistic pilot. Others say it was the image of his mistress, never publicly acknowledged. In any case, a young woman’s portrait was painted on the interior cockpit of the Knight and over many centuries of service it was repainted many times, becoming altered in the process. Eventually the young woman came to represent the spirit of the warmachine itself. There’s nothing subtle about the changes to the image, from the clawed, bloody hands to the death’s head, or the pile of skulls on which she sits. It’s not perfectly clear where the crown or bee symbols came from, but the family’s heraldry is was once supported by a honeybee in reference to their ancient motto: “per industrium.”

The image of a reigning queen, majestic and terrible in her wrath, resonated with Aurelia as she bonded with the machine through the Throne Mechanicum during their service together. The lines between warmachine and woman have blurred over a hundred years, and she now sees herself as the human component of a sublime symbiosis. The Blood-Soaked Mistress is one being with two components: the mouth-piece ambassador and the terrible god-machine; each of which is incomplete without the other.

Aurelia Tibbetts – a singular personality

“Idiots! How can you profess to protect mankind while you manipulate and exploit the population of an entire planet? Do you even see how ironic that is? Maybe I should liberate them from YOU!”
– Lady Tibbetts

An odd woman, even in her youth, her stunning agility and combat skill in the sparring chambers only made her more resentful when her younger brother was chosen as the heir to the throne. She complained to everyone who would listen that it was only because he was a man, and became ever more resentful and rebellious. She was expected to become a courtesan for a nobleman, but instead she pursued affairs and scandals of all sorts and caused many awkward conflicts for her family.

When her younger brother died upon attempting to become a Knight pilot, all that courtly intrigue came crashing down on her. The scandals she wove that had been a distraction and channel for defiance were twisted into a guilt-ridden burden. The Throne imposed an external sense of honor and duty that was difficult to reconcile with her rejection of those principles. However, she threw herself into her work and bonded well with her Knight suit as she had always known she would. The chip on her shoulder fueled a deadly competitive streak, which enkindled passionate displays of violence and skill on the battlefield. She felt immortal when she was in the cockpit, and through her mount she fought for and earned the respect she had always wanted in the first place.

Witnessing the death of her cousins on a distant planet was a blow to her psyche from which she never fully recovered, but it also represented an opportunity. She was ashamed to admit it but there was something thrilling about being suddenly free. The logistical difficulty of getting all three of the Knight suits back to her home planet was a tedious proposition that brought her back to reality. She had no taste for bureaucracy and was happy to leave treaties and negotiations to her cousins; but now they were dead. She had no strong desire to go back home in defeat and deal with the complicated years-long mourning practices. She quietly shed lonely tears over her comrades and made a pact to stay with the astartes. The choice was clear to her: they were the finest warriors she’d ever known, and they never once expressed astonishment at her gender — if they were even aware of it at all.

She distastefully negotiated a complicated treaty with the Adeptus Mechanicus, buying freedom and autonomy by loaning the two other Knight suits to them for study. They could repair and inspect the Knights, but were not allowed to pilot them. Yet she would, on occasion, offer the subtlest hint that if they waited long enough she might let them try, or convince House Tibbetts to shift their allegiance to the Adeptus Mechanicus. Stringing them along with this bait, she had them install and equip a small hanger for her use and supply raw materials and arms to affect her own maintenance regime.

House Tibbetts has ever been cold and aloof from their Imperial allies. Like them, Aurelia sees the Imperium as the height of dysfunctional bureaucracy and backward-thinking morbidity. She’s doesn’t have access to the knowledge of the Inquisition and other high-ranking Imperial Commanders, so she sees only the downtrodden, oppressed citizenry and hopelessly fatalistic troops of the worlds on which she has fought. Working alongside the Death Korps of Krieg was a pivotal moment, by her own admission. Their cold, meat-grinder mentality was disgusting to her, and she made it clear to all that the campaign was most distasteful. She also sees this sort of oppression in the native people of Tonatzin, who are kept in a stunted state of barbarism so they’ll make better recruits for the astartes. She has made a point of understanding the natives and working with them, even taking a long-time lover from their ranks. He’s now the crew leader of the men and women that maintain the Knight suit. They cast armor plates in the sands of the desert, lovingly repaint the Knight, and have even learned to take apart, clean, and reassemble almost everything on it. They may not fully understand it all, but they’ve made detailed schematics of their own so they know just how it all goes together. Aurelia fills in the blanks and asks the Adeptus Mechanicus if the need is desperate.

Aurelia is honored as a woman of the people, one of their own but clearly the matriarch of the village. She provides for her crew and their families with true compassion, and the area around the Queen Bee’s hanger is amongst the most culturally vibrant and exciting places on the entire planet, rumored as a sort of idyllic utopia by city-states all across the world. The astartes tolerate this, even though it can be disastrous for the ideas to spread too far and wide, because her service record is impeccable and losing her support would dull the teeth of their military organization.

The Queen Bee now

A sort of cult of personality surrounds the mighty war machine and its pilot, both from the natives of Tonatzin and within the Eagle Eyes chapter itself. The natives appreciated her interest at first, and then began to respect her as she learned their language and customs. The marines, whilst in awe of the sheer might her Knight brings to the battlefield, have come to see her as something fundamentally more important than just a gun mobile gun platform.

When Aurelia brought her Knight and antiauthoritarian viewpoint to the planet, she did so with the full intention of helping the people of the Imperium. Her almost naive idealism can be very refreshing to some of the astartes, and a sort of philosophical rift has been rippling through the chapter. There are those who would work to emancipate the native Macay. They note that Corax himself, their Primarch, broke the chains of his own people. On the other hand, there are some within the chapter that seem to have a vested interest in keeping her at arm’s length as she has no business within their ranks. They’re quick to point out the harsh lifestyle and stunted technology allows for a wide base of suitable recruits for their ranks. Although far from any sort of true rebellion, there have been some tense times and some marines have taken to using the small bee logo as a mark of allegiance and respect. You could say the more humanitarian astartes tend to support her, whilst the secretive, cold members dismiss her.

mordentAll told, the sight of the black-and-gold war machine marching above the astartes is an inspiring vision. The marines have come to rely on her support in open engagements, and offer her protection in the form of Storm Talon escorts and anti-infantry details as need be. The Eagle Eyes are a calculating, subtle foe but sometimes they need to throw that caution to the wind and unleash the angry roar of Mordent, the Queen’s Reaper Chainsword. It seems her place amongst the chapter is firmly established, bound by oaths of fealty on both sides.