+ inload: Massacre at Phen Mun +

 + Massacre at Phen Mun +

+ Today, A little prelude to the battle report – up soon – to which I'll attach some first thoughts on Crusade gaming. Had a blast!+


Phen Mun was breathtaking. The lighter was still high up, but the Kills and her team had buckled in and opened the door, to 'let in the the world a little', as Brunski put it. It was a habit he'd inherited from his previous life; a habit Kills indulged as much for the team's morale as the chance to breathe fresh air for a change. The wind whistled and buffeted the passengers, who sat quietly, enjoying the changing pressure and freshness of the new world.

From the peninsula where the open sea began, all the way inland along the river's trail, the water was tinged a beautiful pink in the descending sun. Rich red soil was covered with thick grasses that bloomed into vigorous woodland as the Arvus continued its journey. Kills looked over the eight of them, nodding to herself.

She tugged on the fabric cable, checking the carabiner was secure against the rail, then stood and walked to the rear of the passenger hold. Her poncho whipped and cracked in the wind as she leaned over, one foot perched precariously on the edge. Reaching a hand out of the back of the shuttle, she tilted herself further, looking down on the trail racing past below.

'You'd hardly know there was a war going on, eh?'


The faceless nature of their warhelms, along with their sheer bulk, lent credence to the ancient claim of Astartes being the immortal and invincible champions of mankind. They were filled with the same vitality and aggression that Brunksi had emulated as a child.

The Inquisitorial aide was an experienced and resourceful man in his own right; ex-Guard, ex-mercenary. He knew his strengths as a warrior. The Astartes were everything he had aspired to be as a young man: unbreakable, self-reliant, surrounded by comrades so like-minded that they operated as one.

Now he had seen them fight firsthand; driving the strange disc-shaped xenos vessels from the coreward reaches of Sector Surpalus. He had revelled in their power; feeling a curious mix of inadequacy and glee at how his species' champions had so completely outmatched and outclassed the grey-skinned creatures.

Now he had seen them recruiting, he realised what such unbridled power could lead to

Now he was a man, Brunski shivered, and wondered how he had ever thought of the Astartes as heroes

He rubbed his hand over his neck, ruefully, as he saw another Chapter thrall leading a ragged line of collared and shackled inhabitants of Gang Maoy along the paved road towards the waiting lander. Several were maimed. He forced himself not to turn away, to meet their gaze. That was the price of being part of an Inquisitor's party: you had to face the tasks others wouldn't.

'Joyous be those who volunteer for service; for they shall be happy slaves. Sorrow to those who attempt to parley or shirk, for that is punishable by slavery' The Gentle had quoted, after seeing Brunski's discomfort. It was a saying, or edict, or mediation of another of the Gatebreakers' interminable poetasters. Brunski and Haim had long tired of the Astartes' self-justification. It seemed obscene in its superfluity. What could a man do in the face of the Astartes? There was little choice here; merely slavery of different stripes, abject or self-deluding. 

He looked again at the faces of the 'recruits'. The first had his nose broken, his eyes swollen near-shut. Brunski felt a pang of guilt at how thankful he was the youth could not meet his gaze. The second and third were dismal, their heads cast down. The fourth appeared almost manic, the eyes in his flat, hairless face bulging.

For no reason he could fathom, Brunski reached out to the youth, who turned to him. The third part of the Gentle's catechism came back to him as their gazes met.

'Honour to those who resist; for they sow the seeds of their own ascension.'


Every so often, she or one of her detail would spit out a mouthful of the red insect-analogues and curse. It was hot, and Haim was sweaty, and the damn bastard flies made her twitch involuntarily. Trail discipline was non-existent for the Andocrines – they were either wide-eyed and twitchy on sparkies, or chewing handfuls of nummer alongside their anti-mals and enviro-adaptive meds. 

Every so often, as they bunched up, Jenette would appear, as though from nowhere, and hiss at them to keep their spacings. Haim's admiration for the Catachan had long curdled into resentment. The trailblazer seemed to be enjoying the patrol.

'Killing a leech,' she'd said, back at the camp, a lho-stick dipping up and down as she spoke. It hadn't been clear whether it was a boast, a suggestion, or a question. 'Won't get no second chance.'

Now Haim had witnessed the results of the infection on Phen Mun, she wasn't at all sure even Jenette would be safe. 


+ Market district, prior to the Massacre. +

Castaway stood on the low hill overlooking the market square. Having volunteered for the urban observation – the thought of all that greenery had made him sick – he had quickly grown to regret his decision. Posted with the Astartes, he'd been variously ignored, laughed at and ordered to silence by the marines. It didn't sit well with his temper, but he was canny enough to recognise that reacting would only end one way.

The squat could see that the township had, perhaps, once been quite beautiful; the older indigenous architecture and town plan integrated and sitting pleasingly alongside the soaring, dominant presence of the Standard Template buildings. In his mind's eye, he could see a pleasant riverside town – but now it was wrecked. Not by the Astartes – that at least was a small mercy for the populace – but by some internal war. The Gatebreakers' presence wasn't helping, however. The Space Marines were being treated like invading aliens rather than valued guardians; the populace fleeing and hiding whenever rumours of the Gatebreakers broke out.

Politics, thought Castaway, ruefully chewing his lip; though he understood that an army appearing without warning and demanding a tithe of the world's best and brightest wasn't the most stabilising or reassuring approach. From Kill's briefing, the Gatebreakers hadn't recruited from Phen Mun for decades – but something was different this time. Something quite insidious had got into the population: and it wasn't the familiar clean fear of power; but a malignant, insidious influence...

Tunnel-crawlers, he thought, the very name making him feel small, and vulnerable. He shuddered. His knuckles whitened around his shotgun, and he hurried back to the Astartes' lines. Something serious had come up on the long-range auspex, and he had very little desire to be anywhere too far away from the Gatebreakers when it arrived.


+ Gatebreakers engage the enemy on Phen Mun +

+ inload: To war! +

+ The Gatebreakers march +

+ Well, the force is now at a stage to be taken to the field: two HQ, one Elite, three (four at a pinch) troops and a Heavy Support are ready to fight. +

+ Seeing your army en masse is always a nice way to build motivation for more building and painting, don't you think? It's at this point that the decisions made at the very start of making your army [+noosphericinloadlink embedded+] really start to pay off. +

+ You can now step back and see how – and if – you want or need to make any changes. At the moment, I'm pretty happy with how the force looks. I think it strikes a nice balance between grittiness, sci-fi and the Rogue Trader-era sensibilities that I personally find fun. +

+ I'm broadly pleased with the balance between personalisation – that is, giving each marine a subtle tweak, like a mark III torso plate, or a bare head, or a raven's claw trinket – and keeping them still looking like a coherent, archetypal space marine force. +

+ With that said, at this point, I think it'll be worth introducing some different unit types, to prevent the army becoming too much of a mass of identikit troops. I like the uniform feel, but an accent or two – in the shape of some distinct visual flair (say a banner, or a few models with obviously different equipment, or a vehicle or two) will go some way to giving the army as a whole a good visual hook. +

+ On the workbench +

+ Talking of vehicles, the Land Raider [+noosphericinloadlink embedded+] is receiving some paint, as are a few additional infantry +

+ Yes, call it inertia, but even when I decide to paint something other than infantry, it takes me a little while to change track. At least these marines are in slightly more dynamic poses! +

+ Rather than using the Assault Intercessors as intended, I'm going to be arming these five (along with three Hellblaster bodies) with boltguns, to be scattered amongst the existing squads. That'll give me a nice variety within the three 'big squads', and minimise duplication. In turn, if I decide to do actual Assault Intercessors, they'll use a mix of different kits. +

+ inload: Space Marine Dreadnought +

+ Monstrous Servant + 

'Send them then, into the dark places. Into the thorns and hard places, send them; there to bring light to my lost children. Send them to the frontiers of my Imperium. Send them, and suffer them no impediment to progress.' 

– Dictate of Imperium (trad.); attributed during Inculcation of Chapter 333 M32 (disp.)


It was cold, there in the dock. She had stoically endured the cold for half an hour, standing ramrod straight as an occasional Chapter thrall looked at her quizzically, but at last she had started shuffling from one foot to the other, then taken to walking up and down to get the blood moving. Two hours later, she was past blowing into her cupped hands in an attempt to breathe some life into them, and seriously wondering if she was going to lose her fingers. She looked up at the suit, glittering with frost. She had never seen a dreadnought before, and had leapt at Kills' suggestion that she attend the awakening. 

She wasn't going to leave because of the cold. You don't make interrogator by backing down from hardship.

After another quarter of an hour, a treacherous thought crept through her icy mind. You don't make Inquisitor through dumb endurance, either.

She never found out whether she was going to break from her self-imposed torment, as the techmarine Cicinnatus arrived. The Chapter thralls looked up distinterestedly, then got back to work. One waved a hand, half-heartedly, to Cincinnatus as he marched forward. The casual sense of indifference struck Haim as odd, but she had already noted the Gatebreakers' thralls seemed to treat the Astartes with simple respect, rather than the awe most of Rogue Trader Taiwo's crew had done. 

Haim had spoken with the Primaris techmarine cadre during the long voyage to the Edge. She had bonded well with them – indeed, she and Cincinnatus had struck up a rapport of sorts. 

It had not survived the melding of Chapter 333 and the incumbent Chapter. The two had not spoken for months. The details and reasons were not clear to Haim, but she had been privy – thanks to Kills delegating the incept-analysis task to her – to a flurry of missives during the formal induction process, ending with a statement from the collected Gnostics that 'followers of the machine god are not counted amongst the members of the Chapter'.

The techmarines had not taken the rejection well.

She hailed the techmarine, hesitantly, as he closed the distance. His head snapped up. 

'Cincinnatus. Thank you for meeting me.' Her voice trembled, not entirely due to the cold. Helmed, he had looked surly, even aggressive, but she was reassured by the guarded smile revealed as he took his helmet off. Cincinnatus' gleaming bionics were peculiarly reassuring. Haim had grown up on a bonded hiveworld, and augmentation always reminded her of home. 

'It has been a long time.' He began. He looked thoughtful as he began work on awakening the ironform. Haim noticed his pauldron was still etched with the 'Chapter 333' temporary heraldry, rather than the mace of the Gatebreakers proper. 

They talked for some time, the initial awkwardness gradually giving way to something approaching warmth. She told Cincinnatus of her time away from Andocrine, diplomatically bypassing her interactions with the Gatebreakers. She need not have worried. As he worked, Cincinnatus explained how the techmarines had been sidelined, bypassed and, at last, baldly and directly refused entry to the Chapter's ceremonies. His voice was flat, and clear, unmarred by emotion; but Haim wondered how much was genuine, and how much was self-control. The Astartes, even after months of sharing ship-space, still sometimes felt very alien to her.

As she hesitated, wondering whether Kills would want her to probe further, the techmarine straightened up and stepped backwards, rubbing his hands clear of unguent with an oily rag. He turned to her and opened his mouth to speak.

+ I remember you. +

The words were so deep, so loud, so startling, they made her torso resonate. All at once, Haim quite forgot the cold.

Cincinnatus looked as surprised as her. The pair looked to the Dreadnought, tracking their gaze up to the war machine's face – or at least where the head would have sat on a human. It spoke again, as it tilted slowly backwards, joints flexing slightly with soft whirring noises, as though testing its limbs.

+ Not you, Warrior. I remember the red-armoured ones. Tech... Tech... Technicals. + It seemed to be testing the word out.  + I had not seen your sort for a long time. It has been the robed ones. They usually have more... incense. +

There was a pause, during which Cincinnatus rallied somewhat.

'Honoured Ancient, I had been anticipating considerable delay in your awakening.'

The dreadnought seemingly failed to register that he had spoken. It turned its paralyzing gaze on Haim. The cold rushed back as lenses and reticules shifted and focussed behind the great smoked-glass panels that made up its strange, totemic face.

+ I am full of surprises. Have they returned? +

'I... I'm...' she started, then got a grip of herself. This is not how an Interrogator acts. 'Who do you mean?' She stole a glance at Cincinnatus, whose flushed face and posture indicated some sort of badly-hidden hyper-aggression. Again, the Dreadnought utterly ignored her question. 

+ That is why I am awoken. That is why I am always awoken. +

Oddly, this stole away the shock. The resignation in the words seemed almost petulant. She straightened, looked up at the Dreadnought, jawline set.

'I am Haim, Ordo Propter. Who do you mean?'

It remained looking down at her, and as the moment stretched, she suddenly saw how very different this was to a robot. It moved, almost imperceptibly, like a living being; as though some ichorous blood was flowing just beneath the hard carapace. All of a sudden, it had changed: no longer a statue, but invested with a strange vitality. She felt she understood, then, all of a sudden, the curious reticence the Astartes had with utilising Dreadnoughts. It felt like necromancy.

She remained, feet set, eyes fixed on the Dreadnought's. Those eyes; those black, sightless, artificial eyes. Cincinnatus fell away. The bay fell away. Only those eyes remained, set in sun yellow and grass green. 

+ Designation Samaritan. Designation Ghagga-Hakra. The Satraps. Designation Uridimmu. The rest. Has the Master been informed? They have returned. I know it. I don't know why I ask every time. +

Haim swallowed. She thought she had better send for Kills. She would want to hear this. The Dreadnought straightened, and swung its arms out. It paused, as though considering, or consulting. As Haim turned, she saw the Chapter serfs had all prostrated themselves in place.

+ Every time. +

It reached out to Cincinnatus, who stepped back to let the Dreadnought pass. It wasn't that, though. The Dreadnought touched his shoulder, as though confirming things. 

+ Hm. Interesting to see you. Technical. +

The techmarine nodded, as though stunned. The dreadnought began to walk, slowly, haltingly. It continued to talk all the while, as though limbering up. Perhaps it was.

+ And not just me, Haim of the Ordo Propter. It's as this ironform remembers it; back to when it was emblazoned with silver stars, bedecked in the coral pink and turquoise of lost oceans. They've always been here. I trust you have brought a weapon. +

Haim changed her mind. She thought she had better go and get Kills. 

You don't make Interrogator by keeping things from Inquisitors, after all.


+ Painting the Dreadnought +

+ The approach I used for the dreadnought was all-but identical to that for the infantry: lay in the flat colours (Flash Gitz Yellow and Warpstone Glow), then lay a burnt sienna oil wash over them before developing the highlights. +

+ The freehand is fairly stripped-back; simple black and white icons and text. I used some Sanskrit – and apologies for dubious translation – to get in some tongue-in-cheek puns; reading 'Dead' and 'Lost/Missing' +

+ I didn't want to overload the freehand, despite the inviting large flat surfaces, as the quartered scheme already makes him busier than he otherwise would be. I might return to add a banner. +

+ I painted the eyes gloss black. I wanted them to look deep, soulful – and dead. The ghoulish use of crippled marines is horrifying, if you take a moment to think about it, and I didn't want the Dreadnought to be too closely aligned to the infantry, instead acting as a midway point between human and warmachine. Dead black eyes seemed a nice way of doing that, making it appear almost cadavorous. +

+ The back received a hint of the orange accent colour used elsewhere, and I hinted at some discoloration of the exhaust's heat shield. +

+ The bulbous oval blisters on the front of the shoulders seemed a good place for a nameplate. I sat this in a little cartouche, to give a slight Ancient Egyptian hint. +

+ inload: Gatebreaker specialists +

+ Eremites, Gentles, and Gnostics: idiosyncracies of the Gatebreakers +

'Xenos! They stand beyond the ridge. Muse on them. Militarise your disgust; be strengthened by your repulsion. Be as the Ninth Prince, and bring the terror of Six-Winged Apta upon his enemies.'

'The xenos defy us! As they tremble in their bunkers, so I shudder with rage. Do you feel your indignation rising? We will draw Bagtsa's fiery fury down upon them; be ceaseless in their prosecution!'

'The xenos oppose us! As Horiman rose to rule Cthalth, though a thousand cuts and a single strike, so we fall on our enemies. Draw his ambition to yourself as we stand ready to advance. Be his victory!'

'Praise to the Princes! Death to those who defy the Emperor's dream! Victory to the Gatebreakers – onwards! onwards!'

– Exhortations of Divine Ysaak Rama, prior to the Phen Mun Massacres


+ Codex divergences +

+ The Gatebreakers demonstrate a number of departures from the organisation set out in the Codex Astartes, though such is that text's flexiblity and breadth that few are truly egregious. +

+ Gentlings +

+ One such example of a substantial divergence are the Gentlings; the Gatebreakers' equivalant to the apothecarion. Lacking a viable centralisation of forces, the various Strikeforces maintain Gentlings within fleets, and set up temporary Gentlings on recruitment worlds, where possible. This allows the Gatebreakers' Gentles – those officers of the Gentlings – to maintain a high rate of implantation. Gentles have much in common with the apothecarion of Codex Chapters, though their role within the Chapter is still more vital. +

+ Chapter Gentle +

+ The multi-headed role of the Gentle have historically been a necessity, owing to the Gatebreakers failing geneseed and numerous generune degradations. It has, however, had the positive effect of making the Gentles amongst the most effective and expert surgeons and healers in the Astartes, as the necessary innovation and adaptation has prevented their medical care from falling into half-understood superstition, as it has in many other Chapters. +

+ The sophistication and expertise of the Gentles thus puts the lie to any vision of the Gatebreakers as culturally impoverished. They are fêted within the Chapter, and are the only members of the Gatebreakers authorised to meet in person with other Imperial forces; meaning that they supplement their duties with those of ambassadors, diplomats – and spies. +

+ Historically, it has exclusively been Gentles who are deployed to the rare requests from the Deathwatch and similar organisations; both as a result of their understanding of diplomacy, and because they are the amongst the few Gatebreakers able to monitor – and disguise – the physical failings that are all too common amongst the Chapter. Their expertise is much in demand amongst such groups – the irony being that Gentles are under standing orders to surreptitiously take samples of tissue from other Astartes; in the hope that further refinements and therapies can be developed for their Chapter's failing geneseed. +


+ Eremites +

+ The Gatebreakers maintain no chaplaincy, the nearest equivalent being the Eremites, or Divines, who tend the numerous shrines that are dotted across the Gatebreakers' protectorate. These individuals serve as much as storytellers and watchmen as spiritual guides, and are hugely varied in their character. Most establish a territory and make their way from shrine to shrine; occasionally accompanying a Strikeforce that is passing through on a patrol. +

+ Solitary and often erratic, the Eremites stand outside of the Chapter's formal power structure. Strictly speaking, they have no rank, as they are instead believed to be empowered by a patron Divine Prince, such as He-Who-Speaks-Not. Thus, though temporally powerless, it is a rare Gatebreaker who will contradict or refuse service to an Eremite. +

+ The shrines themselves vary hugely, from opulent cave-grotto sanctuaries visited by pilgrims to simple piles of rocks added to by superstitious locals. They are united by little save their isolation, making them hard for enemies to detect, and easy to defend. Whatever their form, they represent a metaphorical system of beacons that connect each planet to the Gatebreakers. The Eremites are the (albeit rarely-seen) face of the Chapter for the inhabitants of the Endworlds. +

+ In pursuing their self-appointed duties, these solitary shrinekeepers inadvertently maintain a warning system of sorts for the patrolling Strikeforces, giving the Chapter an organic way of maintaining a thin web of information from their distant borders without direct contact with those beneath their protection. +

+ The Eremites are the stuff of myth and fear on most worlds, solitary heroes – or dread legends – that appear out of the storm to face down piratical slavers, to rally the populace against an alien invasion, or to strike down powerful leaders or groups that threaten to unbalance a society. They are intercessionary figures for the common mass of humanity. To the Chapter, they are divinely-inspired ordinates, allowed a huge degree of autonomy for their invaluable service and suffered to bring truth to power. +

+ As a result of their isolation and individuality, it is difficult to characterise them. The inherent eccentricity and exceptionalism of all who are suitable to be elevated to the Astartes is a factor, and the cynic may point to the mental degradation caused by unstable geneseed as the source of 'divine' calling. Nevertheless, tales of the Anchorites' courage, strength and wisdom are frequently accompanied by seemingly supernatural acts of strength and will. +

+ Typically, an Eremite will move from world to world, using the shrines to send a subspace message to Strikeforces, who will where possible divert to pick up the individual. They will then accompany the Strikeforce, moving amongst the Members-Ordinary. The more boistrous and martial will seek to test their hosts' knowledge of the Ten Divine Princes, issuing martial challenges to those who show a poor understanding; others will act as storytellers, sympathetic listeners who collect the concerns and worries of the Chapter, then offer advice and placations to their patron Divine Prince. +

+ Some live an ascetic existence as Anchorites, withdrawing entirely from contact with the Chapter and wider humanity, and settling as a guardian of an individual shrine. Such Eremites are usually characterised by the poor nature of their arms and armour; some eschewing power armour entirely, either by choice or through necessity. The loss of such materiel is sorely-felt by an already impoverished Chapter, and their shrines are visited where possible to recover or replace elements left by the anchorite. To become an Anchorite is self-imposed, but Gatebreakers who feel they have reached a state of physical decline – either through age or injury – will sometimes opt to withdraw from their official duties. +

+ Forced to rely on their own resources – and facing the gradual decline of their physical state away from the Gentles – the Eremites represent the soul of the Gatebreakers. +


+ Eremite Ysaak Rama +

+ Wandering the worlds of the Kua Fu Cluster, Eremite Rama was encountered by the Ninth Strikeforce as they investigated the world of Phen Mun. His local knowledge proved invaluable as he directed the force safely across the canyon regions that protected a deeply-dug in enemy force. +

+ After the massacre, Rama stayed only long enough to receive ministrations from the attending Gentle, accept a number of replacement armour-elements, and to disseminate the teachings of a spirit whom he claimed dwelt in the calcified remnants of the shrine's previous attendant, and spoke directly to him through the damaged nerve-endings of his teeth. +

[+supplementary request>?+]
[SPOOLING: ReqQuery: Techmarines; ReqQuery: Librarius; ReqQuery: Command]

+ inload: Fixing frosted varnish +

+ Ysaak Rama +

+ A chaplain, to lead the Gatebreakers in their upcoming battles. A minor head and weapon swap from the Indomitus box, I opted to paint him with the green and yellow of the Chapter, rather than the black of the Codex. He's not quite finished yet – the chest symbol, leatherwork, boltgun and spiky shoulder bit need more work, but he's pretty much there. I'll post him up with some additional background when he's complete. +

+ He was a bit of an experiment. With the rest of the Gatebreakers, I've painted the oil wash over flat colour, then highlighted afterwards. I wanted to try doing the highlighting prior to the oil wash, just to see what would happen. In short, it seems to work fine – I think the Chaplain above looks about the same as the other figures; the oil wash doesn't impact the highlighting too much. +

+ Single figures – particularly personalities – are good to experiment with, as there's always a ready excuse for any slight inconsistencies. I think I will sharpen the final highlights a bit further, just to add a spot more impact and contrast; but I'm counting the experiment a success. +

+ Fixing spray varnish fogging +

+ Talking of experiments, spray fogging, also called blushing, frosting or misting, is something that I've been slightly dreading since I've started using spray varnish for the figures. It occurs when the particles of condensation are trapped – this can be due to sudden changes in temperature (for example, spraying onto a figure that's markedly colder or hotter than the area in which you're spraying), or high humidity. +

+ I have thus far avoided spraying on very humid nights, but having read up on some solutions to the problem, I thought that I'd give it a go. Let me be clear; I was hoping he'd come out fine from the spray, but was prepared in case it did result in fogging. +

+ Spoiler: it fogged:

+ The good news is that the solution is the holy trinity of hobby tips: cheap, quick and easy. You can simply paint a little sunflower oil over the surface. Here, I've oiled only the cloth, to show you what happens. +

The glossiness fades quickly. The image at the start of the inload shows the same figure the morning after. Don't gloop it on: you want as thin a coat as possible. I'm guessing that the frosting effect is caused by tiny texturisation scattering light, so a thin layer of oil smooths things out. +

+ I suspect that any oil will have the same effect – though better would be something like artists' linseed oil or walnut oil, which will have been more thoroughly sterlised. The important thing is that you choose a drying oil (that is, it polymerises). Olive oil or mineral oil will never dry, and the former will go rancid. +

+ With that said, the amount you're using is tiny, and if you're sealing it with varnish afterwards anyway, it likely won't have any adverse effect (at least, none more so than using any other organic material, like lichen on a model's base). +

+ Next! +

+ Having tried out the oil trick on the cloth, I wanted to see whether the oil paint I was using would have the same effect. The answer seems to be 'yes', which isn't entirely surprising, as the oil carrier of the paint will be doing the same thing as the sunflower oil. I think the most important thing here is that the process seems to work even when the oil paint is thinned to a glaze consistency with thinners. +

+ Anyway, I can't really recommend that you experiment like this, but I hope that the examples above are helpful. I'll keep you updated on whether the effect returns, or anything unexpected happens. +

+ More building +

+ Besides painting Rama, I cracked on with the Eradicators (unconverted, and headless, since I'll do everything else in one fell swoop)... +

+ ...and a Rift Team; the Gatebreakers' rather enforced approach to duties usually undertaken by Terminators. With vanishingly small numbers of Terminator plate, these boarding specialists bear heavy breaching shields and power mauls, their armour reinforced with additional plating and flame-damping flak-aprons. +

+ These additions are designed to provide additional protection to soft armour areas, while also preventing small arms fire from bypassing the Astartes. This is important because Rift Teams are typically deployed at the head of auxiliary boarding parties – made up of Naval security, Chapter serfs or other non-enhanced warriors. +

+ Having the means to effectively interdict firepower to their allies allows them to set up a defensive foothold in enemy ships, allowing other Gatebreakers to be deployed to relieve them. Rift Teams are positions of high value and their members held in high regard. Gatebreakers frequently compete for the honour of serving in a Strikeforces Rift Teams, despite the obvious dangers. +

+ I also finished the dreadnought, but more on him in a future inload. +

+ inload: Building Inquisitrix Barbari Kills +

+ Inquisitrix Barbari Kills +

'If you have good sense, you'll quietly put this book back where you found it and creep away. You'll find more questions than answers inside – and that's exactly what got me started pulling on a thread that led to this accursed rosette.'

– Preface to Inquisitor B. Kills' Comments, 1st edition

'If you find, written in my obituary, that I led a blameless life, look for the footnote. I'd like it made clear that I regard being blameless as an act of cowardice bordering on deviance. Every moral agent must make account for her actions – that is, after all, at the root of the Inquisition's mission.'

'Oh, and make sure that I'm buried with my boots and a knife – y'know, just in case.'  

– Preface to Inquisitor B. Kills' Comments, 2nd edition


+ Models of characters +

+ It's always tricky making a model of a character you like, and Kills has a healthy dose of humour and punky irreverence that makes her quite refreshing for this fairly po-faced setting. On top of that, quite a lot of the narrative of my little corner of 40k revolves around a scant few characters, of which Kills is one. Clearly I had my work cut out. +

+ When in such a situation, one approach is to call for back-up. Working out who your character works with is often easier, as this supporting cast can be much simpler archetypes – the medic, the soldier, the brute, the wizard, the bard. By making these, you immediately start to explore their relationship with the central character, which goes some way to cast light on the way you can portray them. +

+ Practicality and adaptation are keywords for Kills – what better companion to reflect that than a Squat? Coriolanus and Septival similarly serve to blend the Inquisitor in with the broader army.  These characters fill different spaces around the character, and start to fill things in by reflecting on her. +

+ For example, I initially toyed with having Kills in long robes, but the more I built her entourage, the more I felt she needed more of an action pose. The poncho suggested itself, and that became the keystone to the conversion. +

+ Regular inloaders might remember Brunski and Haim, another two followers. They have models sketched out, but I'm considering revising them in light of Kills' completed model. Keeping things flexible and fluid enough to respond to changes is useful. +

+ Anyway, once you've got an image in your mind, it's time to pick a model. You may be lucky and find something stock that requires only a little tweaking, but I really enjoy going all out on my Inquisitors (Unfortunus Veck is another example [+noosphericinloadlink embedded+]), and pushing my skills to best reflect the unique qualities of these exceptional individuals.  In particular, I'm very keen that these conversions fit two criteria:
  • They look unique – while parts might be identifiable, I don't want it to be immediately recognisable as a conversion of another model. Ideally, it should look like a model you could buy, rather than a conversion.
  • It gets the character of the figure across.
+ The results are below, so I'll leave you to judge whether I've been successful! +

+ The poncho is the most obvious thing here, and I think it is doing a lot of the heavy lifting in terms of composition. It adds dynamism and movement to an otherwise fairly staid pose, and creates a sense of drama; suggesting the pistol has just been whipped out from beneath it. Secondly, it reveals something about the setting: it has a frontier feel, like a cowboy or prospector. This is backed up with the heavy boots and practical all-weather clothing. Finally, it being blown up reveals a mass of unusual equipment and pouches, which speak to Kill's self-reliance and preparedness. +

+ Complementing the revealed pistol is the Inquisitorial rosette – Kills strikes me as the sort of Inquisitor who realises that by the time you reveal your identity, it's best to have a gun drawn too! I also liked the fact that the rosette would normally be hidden beneath the poncho; again telling us something about her character and methods. +

+ The pistol is a good example of hiding the provenance of something. The stock bit is from the Primaris apothecary, but trimming away the bells and whistles leaves it as a simple, stocky, brutal-looking handgun. +

+ It's worth noting that this is pre-greenstuff. It's been too hot to work comfortably recently, and in any case, it's sometimes nice to step back, consider the figure in front of you, and build a plan before ploughing on with putty. Having a bit of breathing space can help you see the composition more objectively. +

+ I'm tempted to do some hair; perhaps something asymmetrical, to distance the head from the stock bit. At the very least I'll fill in the hole left by trimming away the back socket; and likely fill in a couple of the boles in the poncho. +

+ Visible here, attached to her belt, is her extendable power maul. Besides being easily hidden, I thought this brutal club seemed much more in keeping with Kills' slightly punky character than an elegant sword. It's also a nice nod to the Gatebreakers, the army with which she is associated for this project. +

+ The book, I think, is an important prop – it stops her looking too 'combatty'. She is, after all, an Inquisitor (or Inquisitrix, to use her preferred appellation), and her role is primarily investigative. +

+ Overall, I'm really pleased with how she came together. The conversion work itself was time-consuming, but it's so satisfying when parts that you've identified end up working together well. As mentioned above, while I'm going to go in with some greenstuff, there's not nearly as much gap-filling and sculpting work necessary as I had initially planned for. +

+ For those interested: Van Saar upgrade head; neck and collar from Necromunda Enforcers, along with the maul and most of the pouches; Elysian left arm and hand; right arm is from a Frostgrave cultist, I think; right hand is from the Elysian Valkyrie passenger kit; upper torso and poncho from the Genestealer gunfighter character; abdomen and legs from a Blood Bowl Dark Elf linewoman; rosette is from the Luminark/Hurricanum kit; and the pistol, as mentioned above, is from the Primaris apothecary kit. +

+ Creating your own character +

+ If you're making your own model, you can, of course, buy everything new, but besides being ruinously expensive – the infamous 'wallet-bleed' class conversions – I find my creativity is channelled best by the challenge of limitations. Necessity is the mother of invention, after all, and starting to work with bits you already have will often guide you down a route you wouldn't otherwise have found. +

+ Most of the parts used for Kills (indeed, most of my projects!) are thus spares, left over from other projects. If there is a critical bit (like the poncho here), then check bits sites or second-hand swap shops as a first port of call. You are, after all, going to cut them up substantially, so a cheap, damaged model can be just as useful for parts as a new on sprue one, after a bit of cleaning up. +

+ Finally, it's worth pointing out that most of these pieces could be easily substituted for much the same effect. Dig through your bits boxes or have a chat with your friends – the Enforcer sprue was a swap with Ilmarinen, and the right arm came from a giant bag o' plague bits Lucifer216 kindly gave me, left over from his own Death Guard project. +


+ I hope that she matches up with your mental images from the colour text that's she's appeared in. I'd love to hear what you think. +

+ inload: Gnostic and Gatebreaker infantry +

+ Endworlds: Landfall +



+SPOOLING transmission.+

+–re you picking this up? Respond. All channels occup–+
+–that infernal noise? Sounds like... like clockw–+


According to the Gnostic's masterpiece auspex-organ, nothing was coming back from the gate. Quite literally. Not even static. The background radiation was utterly absent; a literal zero. Doubtless this accounted for the chill.

Kills shivered. In her heated, sealed, stuffy atmosphere suit, it was quite unnecessary. However, like coughing to break a silence, it felt somehow humanising; as though introducing some measure of useless movement, of entropy, would break the hex of this perfect, disquieting order. 

Though his vox-clicks were muffled by the dead air, the Gnostic was busy. At his words, the Strikeforce coiled back in, ghosting back towards Kills and her team.

The monolithic structures were straight, and clean. Again, disquietingly so. These were not straight in an ordinary, everyday architectural way, but suffused with an unsettling purity of geometry; as though the walls and corners themselves were manifested mathematics; avataric emblems of some unaccountably Other reality.

Absently, she brushed her hand against the Inquisitorial seal, concealed beneath her cloak. It felt like wax, and vellum, and familiarity.
For a symbol powerful enough to end worlds, she thought, with a grin, you feel positively wholesome.


+ Painting +

+ Besides the Chapter markings, gunsights and tufts on the bases, the next batch of Gatebreakers are complete (hurrah). +

+ Two are on assignation to Inquisitrix Barbari Kills, one's the Strikeforce's Gnostic (a sort of non-psychic Librarian/Lieutenant hybrid, in charge of battlefield organisation and record-keeping). The remaining four are more Intercessors to bulk out the squads. +

+ I'll hold off background and names until they are genuinely finished (looking at the Gnostic above, a bit of battle damage needs further refining), but I wanted to show 'em off! +

+ Member-Ordinary with boltgun +

+ Member-Ordinary with boltrifle and auxiliary grenade launcher. +

+ Member-Ordinary with bolt rifle +

+ Coriolanus, specialist +

+ Septival, specialist +

We looked at these two a bit more closely in the last inload [+noosphericinloadlink embedded+], and they've received only minor updates. Still, it's sometimes surprising what a difference basing can make. +

+ I haven't yet added their Chapter markings (or the black purity seals that will mark them as seconded to the Ordo Propter), but I did add a specialist symbol in place of the usual Tactical/Devastator/Assault/Fire Support/Close Support symbol. I took this crescent moon device from an early edition of Epic. It's a nice clear symbol, with some mystical associations. +

+ inload: Septival and Coriolanus +

+ The Tenets of the Ten Divine Princes +

Septival and Coriolanus, Kills' attendant Space Marine bodymen, no longer looked alike. Two years of hard fighting on the nebulous frontier had seen the pair adapt to the realities of their new situation. During the counter-invasion of Munda Ostiona, Septival had been honoured by Gnostic Deacon for ferocity in the face of the brutalist Rhigim. It seemed to Kills that he wore his relic plate with a swollen chest; still more upright than before.

It was more than mere armour detail, though. During the brief period the Ninth Strikeforce had operated alongside the Chapter Master's own Strikeforce, in patrols of the Shin-Xiao Expanse, Coriolanus had been seconded to Sho's own force – pointedly, it appeared to the Inquisitor; as though the Master was goading her. On his return, the space marine had a slightly different air. Not openly evasive, but his words seemed more considered. Kills wondered whether she was unconsciously reacting to him differently.

'The Tenets, mistress? We have spoken of this before.' His head, still shorn in the style of the Core, was unhelmed. Adaptive souls, these Primaris, Haim had mused, privately. Her acolyte was right. Every day the two groups of Gatebreakers seemed to become more alike. Under the auspices of Yeng and his fellow Gentles of the apothecary, more and more of the Astartes were undergoing the Rubicon process. As the resulting ruinous casualty rating climbed, the Primaris were integrated into Strikeforces, and then squads; rooting themselves more deeply in their adopted place.

Conversely, the Primaris were finding what the old Chapter had long-known – that resupply was rare and supply lines were thin. Practicality saw weapons swapped for more reliable and plentiful alternatives, and the techpriest-led forges were hard at work adapting to the new armoury.

'We have; and I ask again,' replied Kills to Coriolanus. 'You were a devotee of the Codex prior to your deployment. Why the change?' The space marine's face remained blank.
'It is no change, Inquisitor.' He replied, mildly. 'The Tenets are a form of the Codex; and can be read alongside them. More literary, perhaps, but the fundamentals of adaptat...' 
'I see little evidence of cross-comparison, Coriolanus,' the Inquisitor interrupted. 'Your time seems hard-spent in transcribing the Tenets.'
The space marine looked pained. 'That is true, Inquisitor. There is, however, nothing to hide. I have long ago committed the Codex to memory, while the Tenets remain raw to me.'
'Agreed, mistress. The discipline of our Chapter is not competing with that of our training.' Septival put in, 'It complements and alloys with it.'

Kills was sceptical, but not suspicious. She had requested – and been granted – leave to study both her bodymen's nascent copies of the Tenets. They were filled merely with the aphorisms and bon mots of generations of Andocrine wisdom; long-dead sages and warrior-poets. It was hardly great literature, to the Inquisitrix's taste, but she could see its value in teaching interpretation to the indoctrinated. 

Kills was no monodominant. She had long ago concluded that the practicalities of Imperium meant that faith and loyalty trumped almost any trespass in style; doubly so for an entity as independent as a space marine Chapter. Alongside her historilogician Haim, Kills had read through the Tenets, and found no sinister trace of heresy amongst the prose and verse. Although the conception of the Primarchs as Divine Princes – and ten of them – had initially unnerved her, she had been reassured by their occluded relationship to the orthodox teachings of the Ecclesiarchy. 

In the Lay of Hayagriever, for example, the Gatebreaker's symbolist tale of a Divine Prince invariably – and gratingly repetitively – described as 'swift, secretive and powerful', Haim had teased out roots familiar to those told in the wider Imperium attributed to Corvus Corax or Jaghati Khan. The name of the first Divine Prince; Kali-Bahn, had similarly raised a smirk of satisfied recognition on the Inquisitor's face. Others were more troublesome. Chemos, the proud and quick to anger Fourth Prince, had raised concern, but Kills' concerns over the dubious associations had been somewhat allayed by the clear blending of tales of Ferrus Manus with his traitorous brother. She would not sanction a Chapter over veiled myths – indeed, she judged that raising an alarm would more likely highlight and spread the problem as resolve it.

As for the others... 'Well,' Kills had said to her acolyte, 'as much as is strange about the surface; the core has survived.' 
'Mutatis mutandis, Barbari.' Haim had agreed. 'The Gatebreakers' ways are odd, but such might be explained by cultural drift typical of their isolation.'

The memory reassured Kills, but she was far from equianimous. It was not the form of the Tenets that bothered Barbari; but the change in Coriolanus since his return.


+ Work in progress: Septival and Coriolanus +

+ Ideas sometimes stem from writing, and these two marines are a perfect example. Introduced to give Kills someone to interact with in her first story, these two have played on my mind. They're symbols of Chapter 333's integration with the Gatebreakers – or to put it another way, they're 'normal' Primaris space marines who serve to introduce us to the Gatebreakers culture. +

+ Being Primaris from the Core Imperium, I gave them both typical Latin-dervied High Gothic names. When I decided to build them, I wanted to blend the clean lines of the Primaris intake with some of the more rough-and-ready elements of the original Gatebreakers. +

Member-Ordinary Coriolanus
+ Member-Ordinary Coriolanus +

+ To that end, Coriolanus is virtually stock Primaris, but with a substitute boltgun for his bolt rifle, and with additional charms on his belt. He has removed his helm – a reduction in battlefield discipline, but it reveals a clean, shaven head and stereotypical space marine colouring. +

+ Member-Ordinary Septival +

+ Septival is outwardly more integrated with the Gatebreakers, replacement shoulder and chest plates marking him as honoured. +

+ Both require detailing – markings, some more work on Coriolanus' boltgun, and basing – but they're nearly ready to join their brethren. I'll likely add some form of mark to indicate their status as Inquisitrix Barbari Kills' bodyguards. Perhaps an Inquisitorial I, or similar. + 

+ Thought for the day: 'Cherish those hearts that hate thee// Corruption wins not more than honesty.' +

+ inload: Castaway +

+ Castaway +

Breccia. Little to recommend it beyond its mineral riches. Low flora, high gravity. You'd wake in a panic, stars in your vision. Breathing felt like an animal was squatting on your chest. Infinite drifts of microscopic dust necessitated airlocks and bulky rebreathers almost everywhere; and still your spit would be terracotta. 

The inhabitants? Homo sapiens rotundus. Kinsmen, or thronglings, to themselves. Squats, to you or me. 

A prickly, short-tempered and belligerent people, they seemed to have picked up and internalised the oppressive atmosphere of the planet. It was pure happenstance that I'd made landfall – I'd had to abandon a starcraft following a disagreement with naval security, and my hastily-secured shuttle required some repairs. 

I met Castaway in the cold dock. He was a visitor too, and slightly more agreeable company than the masked Breccian natives. I say visitor, but survivor's probably closer to the truth. A greenskin crusade had reportedly broken over his homeworld – itself in some backwater sub called Antona Australis – and he'd found himself unable to return. 

We met as I attempted to find some way off the rock. Castaway had much the same idea, and over the local brew, Brunski, myself and he concocted a plan of sorts. Like most of my acolyte's plans, it started with persuasion and ended with lasers. Suffice to say we emerged minus a shuttle, but plus a curiously handy engineer.


+ Faces of the Gatebreakers +

+ Painting things on sprues is a very weird experience, but novelty's a good way to keep your interest up. It also allows for quick and easy comparison, which is handy both for achieving uniformity (for the helms) and diversity (for the bare heads). Regular inloaders will have heard my witter on about painting skin beforehand, but if you're interested in a little more theory, this inload includes some thoughts on getting variety into skintones [+noosphericinloadlink embedded+]. +

+ The Gatebreakers take this a little further: their wide-ranging recruitment methods mean the Chapter is hugely varied in skintones, so having them all on sprue allowed me to really have fun jumping around. Top left of the image above was built up from an ochre base (Averland Sunset) with Army Painter Mummy Robes (a lovely creamy brown-tinged white). A wash of Seraphim Sepia and some pink hints gave a nice smooth result. For the very dark skintone on the top right head here, I used a base of dark brown (Rhinox Hide) and green (Vallejo Flat Green), and added orange (Fire Dragon Bright) as I highlighted up. The fresh scarring was achieved with Vallejo Flat Red and Vallejo Off-white added to the mix. The same flat red was used to add warmth to the cheeks, nose and lower lip, too. +

+ The head on the lower left combined Averland Sunset and Rhinox Hide, and was then highlighted up with Off-white before being glazed back down with washes of Seraphim Sepia. The head on the lower right was painted over a Rhinox Hide layer, using increasingly light mixes of Vallejo Flat Red, Off-white and Averland Sunset. +

+ Once I got a bit bored of painting faces, I swapped to painting metallics and laying oils over the varnished green and yellow areas. These need a bit of cleaning up tonight, and then I'm onto highlighting and assembling. Nearly there! +