A six month ork-painting bender left me in the mood for something altogether more crisp and defined. My skills seem to have atrophied somewhat during that time, and I found myself making all sorts of mistakes I wasn't previously making, but ultimately I have emerged with my first new space marine since February: Cobalt Scions Chapter Master Tiberius Drusus.
Today's post will cover the modest conversion and magnetisation work, some notes on the painting, and (of course) the lore: who is Drusus, and why is he full of doubt?
The word 'conversion' might be a bit of a stretch, but: some green stuff work was needed to fill in the socket on his exhaust vent left by forgoing the servo-skull. It's cool and all, but I felt it made the model's silhouette too messy.
Helmets are sensible things for sensible people, but for characters in particular I do love being able to see a face. The face that comes with the kit is compellingly brutish, but not right for Drusus. Instead I've used the head from the Primaris Ancient kit, and it's an incredible bit of sculpting.
Finally, and most ambitiously, I magnetised his off-hand weapons. I say ambitiously because the width of magnets needed for a solid join gave me little room for error, but it was well worth the effort... particularly since Lucullus, the other captain in my roster, lets me use rearm & resupply for free. Drusus can stride into his arming chamber and pick and choose between crusade games, and I love it. Best Crusade upgrade ever.
Of course Drusus can't start out in a campaign as a chapter master rules-wise, so I'm going to have to level him up first. To explain that, I've tried to make him a character with room to grow into his role, as covered in the lore section further down.
This was in line with the other Scions. There's tutorials for the blue armour here, and recipes for all areas of the model here. After six months of not painting marines, it's fair to say I was rusty. Mistakes were made, particularly on the cloak lining, which I ended up having to do twice.
Waaaaa no sub assemblies
Another serious challenge when painting this lad is that I couldn't see a sensible way to paint in sub-assemblies without ending up with some problematic joins. That meant some pretty fiddly painting; trying to layer up fabric and armour highlights behind ammo belts and the like made for slow, careful work. The face also had to be painted in situ, and it really made a difference to the level of precision I was able to achieve, but I'm happy with the final result.
Heraldry & a deliberate lack of weathering
With the rest of the army I've been doing a reasonable amount of weathering, namely: armour chipping and muddy boots. As I'll cover in the lore section, Drusus hasn't been in the field for a few years at this point, so I wanted to present his wargear as being more pristine than everyone else's. Each time he gains a rank in Crusade, I intend to add a little more weathering. I won't go crazy, though, since I imagine the Chapter Master would be well looked after.
Given his rank it was tempting to add more bling to the painting, but that wouldn't suit his character. Instead I made subtler changes to the usual heraldry. The chapter badge incorporates a laurel wreath, and his left kneepad - usually used by Cobalt Scions to denote their company - is just pure blue, as he doesn't have a company. Instead I painted a smaller version of the chapter badge on his right kneepad, and added the name of the the Scions' homeworld Thonis on the banner beneath.
Being the chapter master, Drusus' history is extremely intertwined with the lore I've already written for the chapter as a whole, which is presented on our campaign wiki. I've tried to write the following without it being necessary for you to have read said lore.
Born into a wealthy family determined to gain the prestige of raising another successful recruit for the Ultramarines, Drusus never had much say in his future. Even his forename Tiberius was chosen by his parents in the hopes that its grandiosity might catch the recruiters' attention. In reality it was the money and resources put into his training and education that got the job done. That, and the terror young Drusus felt knowing that the trials would kill him if he didn't best them. Understanding that he couldn't appeal to his parents to avoid the trials only deepened his fear, as did the fear of being a disappointment.
Following his recruitment Drusus found his fellow initiates came from all walks of life, and most of them had succeeded despite not having any of the privileges Drusus had enjoyed. That he had needed such boons just to rival his fellows was formatively humbling.
Indoctrination purged Drusus of his fear, but not his doubt. It was this doubt, this awareness of his shortcomings, that left him with a lifelong thirst for learning.
Decades of war followed, and Drusus proved a perfectly able Ultramarine. In time, he was elevated to the first company. Serving as a brother in Aelius Justarian's squad, Drusus was occasionally seconded to other units in the chapter to serve as a stand-in sergeant, or to improve the skills of less experienced marines.
When volunteers were requested to help found the Cobalt Scions, Drusus was an enthusiastic proponent, keen to apply his flexible take on the Codex Astartes to a new chapter unencumbered by tradition. Squad Justarian submitted themselves to the apothecaries for the primaris transformation. The idea was simple: each of the ten brothers would lead one of the ten companies, with Justarian serving as chapter master. A small group of marines who knew each other, who had unsimulated experience they could impart to their newly awakened vat-trained brothers.
The tragedy of Squad Justarian's passage across the Rubicon Primaris is recorded elsewhere, as is the grief of Drusus and the other three survivors. What is important here is that Drusus' adaptability and genial nature were what saw his three brothers eventually agree that he should be the one to lead them following the death of their beloved sergeant.
Drusus had certainly been willing to lead a company, but hadn't been expected to lead the whole chapter. He didn't feel any more entitled to be in charge than his three remaining brothers, and certainly no more of an expert. As an Ultramarine veteran his role had been to provide answers, but they were answers to simple martial matters, not founding, training and administering a full chapter of warriors. Drusus soon concluded that by necessity his style of leadership would be collegiate, and tempered by an advanced awareness of his own ignorance. During the long voyage from Macragge to Mars, and thereafter throughout the Indomitus Crusade and to Thonis itself, Drusus assembled the pedagogi, a cabal of teachers in everything from grand strategy to civic governance. It wouldn't make them seriously effective leaders, but it would hopefully reduce the time it would take to achieve acceptable standards.
Through the Scions' time in the Indomitus Crusade, Drusus' aptitude for naval and strategic matters slowly improved. Whenever the Scions worked with other Imperial formations he would seek to identify the most able commanders among them, and do what he could to learn from them. Joint operations were something he actively sought out, keen to cement the Scions' reputation for aiding those who needed it, and to help build a collaborative culture within the chapter, rather than the isolationist approach of the Dark Angels and their like.
While the crusade offered valuable strategic experience, however, it did nothing for his political skill. Upon arrival in Thonis, the initial challenges faced by Drusus made him politically indecisive, and his doubt at his own suitability grew. In time, the input of the pedagogi and quiet meetings with local Thonician leaders enabled him to at least keep the situation under control. At no point did he even consider the idea that the Cobalt Scions would rule Thonis by consent. Coming from Macragge, he had expected the local populace to simply be in awe of the Astartes.
This turned out not to be the case.
Powerful old houses did not wish to cede their agency, but Drusus could not accept the need to treat the nobles' desires for profit with equal importance to the strategic needs of the chapter, and thus the safety of the wider region. He might have been deferential and collaborative among his brothers, but to the nobles of Thonicia he was an unwelcome tyrant.
Drusus' strategy, ultimately, was to pit the nobles against each other, while working to improve the conditions of the broader populace. Thus, while the nobles of the newly-formed senate remained troublesome, they lacked the popular support needed to attempt a rebellion.
The implementation of this strategy took time. Drusus spent several years in Thonicia, leaving his brothers to do the true job of a space marine while he ensured they had a home to return to.
After three years of work, and with a good number of new recruits well into their training, Drusus decided he'd finally done enough that it was safe to get out into the field and regain his martial edge. Attempting to embody the Scions' doctrine of flexibility, Drusus regularly changes his weaponry according to the threat he faces. His left hand, however, always bears a boltstorm gauntlet: a nod to the icon of the chapter itself, the blue fist, honouring the Gauntlets of Ultramar. In this way, Drusus hopes to be the figurehead every chapter needs. Privately, though, whenever he meets an Astartes captain from another chapter, or even a seasoned human admiral, he knows they had to work harder to reach their rank than he did. One day, he hopes, he will have truly earned the iron halo affixed to his armour.
I've just used Drusus in his first game - against Andy's fledgling Alpha Legion force - and he acquitted himself well, killing the Master of Possession, somehow surviving the Venom Crawler's charge with one wound remaining, and then slicing its legs off. Bloody heroic.
What's getting painted next? No idea. Could be terrain, could be more Scions, could be more Goffs. That's the nice thing about having two armies at a serviceable size - there's no obligation to get anything done, it's driven entirely by whatever looks fun on any given day. Luxury.