Tuesday, 1 December 2015

The Relics of Ultramar

So some months ago I finally came to the realization that I must heed the ancient call, and get back into 40k.

Although I had thrown away a tremendous amount of hobby stuff years ago when I had been faced with bedbugs in a building I was living in, I had held on to all my finished models, including my old army of Rogue Trader era MkVI "beakie" Space Marines.

Looking over what I had, I was struck with two strong feelings: First a great wistfulness and nostalgia for all those hours I had spent at home working away on these models, at the desk across from my Dad's in the basement. Second an overwhelming sense that although I'd always taken pride in the level of detail to which I had painted these models, that I was a much more capable, grown man now, and could do much better.

I very quickly resolved that I would "remaster" this old army of mine. That I would keep and touch up the best of what was there, put some of the more creatively painted and converted models away as momentos and strip and then repaint the worst of it (along with some squads I had made of some other things for fun such as Mentors and Fallen Angels) bringing it all in line with the new codex structure with the hopes of playing (and perhaps winning) some games with it.

The army was put together before there was any concept of the Codex Astartes in the game, and before the Ultramarines became the embodiment of it it, long before Citadel had produced Chapter-specific paints, or iconography and marking were standardized.. Much like many of the artists GW has employed, and still do, my vision of the Ultramarines has always been somewhat darker than the baby-blue centurions of latter day. They were, after all, the angels of death. I'd taken a lot of inspiration from the art in the very first few rulebooks There are two images that still stick in my mind, and looking back now, I can see I borrowed from them quite a bit.

So much of Russ Nicholson's work was influential on my concept for this army. You can see that from the image I chose as my avatar for this account, and particularly in this image here:

I had chosen a dark Navy for their base color, and had my own, looser though fairly developed  concept for the markings and iconography than what is now considered Codex compliant. In addition to all this, the vast majority of the models were in an obsolete armour pattern. I didn't want to loose this character of the army, but I wanted to bring it into the modern era of the game. I needed narrative. With some research, and a bunch of thought, It came together.

There wasn't much written about the 3rd Company which really appealed to me as I didn't want the baggage of named characters, formations, etc. What I did find was that the 3rd company retook the polar fortress in the Battle for Macragge after the destruction of the 1st company, taking heavy casualties themselves in doing so. I liked how this mirrored the history of the Ultramarine legion showing up late for the Heresy, and doing penance by doing the heavy lifting during the Scouring.

The story goes that: "As a gesture in honor of the sacrifice the 1st had made, The 3rd bestowed all of their Mk VII suits and much of their equipment to the new Captain and newly promoted Veterans of the 1st in order to help rebuild, as most of theirs had been lost with the battle brothers of the 1st in the bloody house of horrors that became of the dark bowels of the polar fortress. Approving of this, and seeing the need for the 3rd, who had also suffered greatly and fought heroically in the recapture of the north pole, to be refitted, Chapter Master Calgar ordered that the Chapter's stores of relic armour be opened to the 3rd Company, who would henceforth be it's bearers and custodians. A great deal of Mark VI had been used by the 13th legion in the days after the heresy, which at that time had technically been becoming obsolete, but was taken on by the legion so that those other legions who had suffered so much attrition in the battle for Mars and Terra and the other fronts of the Heresy, could be urgently supplied with the state of the art Equipment. Although it was not quite as refined as the Mk VII armour that had been churning out of the Terran Manufactorums, it was an improvement over the the Mk IV suits that the Ultramarines, relatively isolated in the Eastern Fringe, had been using since the latter days of the Great Crusades.

Upon the issuing of Calgar's order the Chapter Artificers solemnly prepared to repaint the relic armour to adhere to the dictates of the Codex. The tech-priests urgently requested they desist, and requested an audience with the Chapter Master. The machine spirits of the Armour were very, very old, and had earned their long slumber. They would be displeased to be called into service again so many millennia later, but they would be very angered to have the livery of their former glory so callously erased. After much deliberation, and great insistence of the Master of the Forge, with the support of the Chapter's Artificers and Librarians (who wished to preserve these pieces of the chapter's history in as original a state as possible), it was decided that since it was not a functional or organizational deviation from the codex, and the circumstances were extraordinary, that the ancient power armour would remain as it was, in the colours, heraldry, and iconography of the Great Crusade. Any heraldic, campaign or honor badges particular to the original bearer of the suits would be preserved in the Reclusiasm on Macragge, and it would be replaced in the way of those times, in order to appease the machine-spirits, as the new bearers continued writing the chapter's rich history in blood on the battlefield.

The original iconography was quite varied due to the ad-hoc fashion in which the legion expanded it's ranks in those days, and the variety of worlds from which they drew their numbers. This made it an even more difficult decision for Calgar, as he knew that what the Primarch had seen as too much room for individuality in the legions of the Crusades was believed to be a weakness that made fertile ground for the taint of treason, and was part of the reason for the rigidity of the codex in such matters. He did however appreciate the similarity of the 3rd Company Captain's gesture to the Guilliman's eschewing of the Mk VII in favor of the VI in the first place. It was as if a Harmonious chord was being struck from across the expanse of the Millennia, and allowing the armour to continue to serveas it had been through the ages seemed fitting in that sense."

With that settled, it was time to get on with some painting.

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