The thing about buying the massive Leviathan box due to a rabid desire to paint the new Terminators as quickly as humanly possible is that, having painted said slabs, one is then confronted with a bunch of other models. Honestly I started painting the Ballistus Dreadnought before it ended up lurking in the bottom of a box for years, since the armless gun box on legs look is, to me, unintentionally hilarious. As is the case with so many silly GW designs, however, I've warmed to it during the painting process.
Today's post will have a few quick notes on the heraldry decisions I made, but the bulk of this short post is a short story exploring this Dreadnought's rather brutal origins.
For the most part this follows the normal Cobalt Scions paint scheme. I did however go slightly off the usual track as I tried out Citadel's Retributor Armour base paint. Its coverage is very impressive, so perfect for anyone wanting a very bright, saturated gold. I rather like it, although I also still like the more desaturated gold method I've used hitherto.
Since the sculpt has a Crux Terminatus on the right side of its torso, I took it to be a member of the Veteran First Company. I therefore painted its left kneepad accordingly, along with a crux on the right shoulder. The only other heraldry choice lay in what to write on the scroll on his right shin. A natter with Jeff bore predictably excellent fruit; I wrote Lachesis on it: the last campaign in which Honoured Demeias fought prior to his death, and the planet he helped save from the Word Bearers.
I feel like any unit as storied as a Dreadnought should absolutely have an origin story, so here we are. I should however offer a content warning as it opens with extreme and sadistic violence, as is right and proper when dealing with Night Lords.
Edit: my copy of the new Codex: Space Marines is yet to turn up in the post, but Tom informs me there's a short story in there in which a marine becomes a dreadnought after fighting some Night Lords. FFS. Well, I'm not going to change this, since it's based on events we actually played through during the Lachesis campaign, and thus cements the historical link between different armies in our gaming group. This is like the zero budget version of that thing where two film studios accidentally develop near-identical films at the same time.
Brother Demeias' death at the hands of the Night Lords was not quick. It was so viciously slow, in fact, that it pared Demeias down to the most basic feelings: helplessness, from having his limbs iteratively shortened. More pain, as skin was tugged from flesh. Pinioned to the deck of the enemy ship he'd boarded, laughed at and peeled apart, his death now inevitable, Demeias felt something shift in his indoctrinated mind: a feeling he had not known since before his ascension to the Astartes. He felt fear.
At last, it was all over.
He woke in the dark, unable to move. His limbs were numb. No, gone, he remembered. By what repugnant sorcery had the Night Lords kept him alive? Panic surged through him.
‘Brother?’ came a voice.
Demeias continued to struggle. He seemed to be strapped down and enclosed in a tiny space, barely big enough to contain him. Some coffin-sized device created by the Night Lords.
‘Brother Demeias, do you hear me?’ came the voice again.
It had to be over, it had to be over. No more could be endured. The bonds remained. Unable to stop thinking of the things done to him moments before, and that were now sure to come again, Demeias screamed.
He woke again, mind clouded. Drugged, he realised. Still confined. A voice called his name from somewhere beyond his coffin. Out of unguarded habit, Demeias answered.
Again he woke, mind clearer.
‘You are doing well, brother,’ came the voice. ‘By the will of the Emperor and the artifice of Mars, you may yet serve in death.’
With a lurch of realisation, he understood. This was torture, but it was not deliberate. He was no captive, he was a relic. They thought they were honouring him. He wept. In life, he had been conditioned to yearn for the thrill of combat among his brothers. His near-death appeared to have robbed him of that yearning. All the carnage he had wrought, in the name of an Emperor he had never seen, and still the Imperium rotted away around them. He had given his life, and now he was being asked to give his death.
‘Why have you blindfolded me?’ Demeias asked.
‘I have not,’ said the voice. ‘The Night Lords took your eyes. The sensory grafts will come soon, now that you are stabilised.’
‘My brothers?’ If he was alive, perhaps—
‘Only Sergeant Tyvus remains.’
‘Brother Demeias!’ Tyvus said, looking up at him. ‘This is well-earned. I may have made some demands as regards your suit’s heraldry,’ he said with pride.
Demeias was glad he no longer had a face that could betray his feelings, though he willed his voice to sound as authentically thankful as possible. ‘Gratitude, Brother-Sergeant.’ Demeias’ armoured hull now bore the Crux Terminatus of the First Company; before the fateful boarding action on the Revenant, Tyvus had told the squad that their elevation to the First would come soon.
Set against what Demeias had felt, and the brothers he had lost, the honour meant nothing to him.
The techmarine, Aristander, stepped into Demeias’ field of view. ‘Today, venerated brother, I am privileged to ask: which weapons shall we forge for your suit?’
Demeias could think of nothing worse than being told to wade into hand-to-hand combat with some hulking xenosform to get torn to death all over again. ‘I beseach the armoury for ranged weapons,’ he said, hoping he hadn’t spoken too quickly. They seemed so proud of him, but he could well imagine their disgust should he confess his fears.
‘A wise choice,’ Tyvus said. ‘Veterans bear many weapons designed for close assault; you will give them greater flexibility.’ He stared up at him proudly. No, not just pride. Demeias realised Tyvus’ expression was mixed with awe and reverence. Demeias squirmed in the nest of cables and restraints filling his sarcophagus, wondering if the seasoned veterans of the First Company would be able to hear the frailty in his voice, for they would surely cast his ruined body aside before it could bring more dishonour upon the Chapter. Much as he wished he hadn’t survived, it seemed that regaining one’s fear meant having an even stronger desire to avoid death for as long as possible.
For a dreadnought, that could mean a long time indeed.