WARRIORS OF OLD
SPACE MARINE DREADNOUGHTS
Spearheading the assaults of the Space Marines, Dreadnoughts are feared by all foes of the Imperium. On the battlefield they are death incarnate, with powerful weapons blasting their foes and lethal close combat weaponry crackling with deadly energies. There are few opponents in the galaxy who can stand against such armoured savagery.
Standing three times the height of a man, Space Marine Dreadnoughts are amongst the oldest war machines fighting on the battlefields of the 41st Millennium. Some Dreadnoughts are even said to date back tens of thousands of years to the Great Crusade, when the Emperor himself walked amongst his people. The art of their construction has long since been lost, the arcane knowledge required passing into ritualised mythology, and each Chapter's Dreadnoughts are treasured relics. They are a living embodiment of the Machine God, representing the ultimate fusion of the biological and the mechanical, as each one contains a living, sentient being. The pilots encased in the shell of a Dreadnought often have memories stretching back many thousands of years, and these ancient warriors are a tangible link to their Chapter's past and heritage.
The biological component of a Dreadnought is no ordinary man, it is one of the Old Ones, a mighty Space Marine hero who has suffered grievous wounds in battle and is deemed worthy to be placed within the armoured sarcophagus of a Dreadnought. The interment of the Old One's shattered remains is a ritual of great significance, involving his fellow battle brothers, the Chapter's Techmarines and it's Apothecaries. It is considered a great honour for a Space Marine to be placed within a Dreadnought, and these ancient warriors are much respected by their fellow battle brothers. The Old One is suspended in amniotic fluids and surgically implanted within the armoured sarcophagus where mechanical senses allow him to perceive the world around him. In this way he can continue fighting for the Emperor for many centuries to come, never leaving his metal body until its destruction.
In battle, Dreadnoughts are a terrifying foe to face, advancing with thunderous strides as incoming fire spatters from their thick adamantium armour. Electro-motivated fibre- bundle muscles power their heavy limbs, allowing them to fire devastating weapons on the move and to fight with all the skill and ferocity they possessed as a Space Marine. As well as fearsome warriors, the accumulated wisdom of their centuries of battle is a valuable resource, and their vast experience means that they have fought in almost every form of engagement imaginable. Almost nothing can defeat a Space Marine Dreadnought in an assault, and its close combat weapons can tear apart even the most heavily armoured vehicles. Dreadnoughts are exceptionally difficult to slay in battle and, in most cases, only the complete destruction of the sarcophagus will kill the pilot. Destroyed Dreadnoughts are only ever abandoned in the direst of circumstances and Space Marines will fight with righteous fury to retrieve a fallen Dreadnought so that they can lay its occupant to rest in the Chapter's sepulchres. The recovered shell will then be lovingly restored to full operation to await its next occupant.
When not in action, Dreadnoughts slumber within sealed stasis vaults in the depths of their Chapter's fortress monastery to extend their lives. The resting place of a Chapter's Dreadnoughts is a holy shrine, and the Techmarines tend to their ancient charges with great care, fastidiously applying the sacred oils and unguents while chanting the Litanies of Preservation. To honour these courageous warriors, the Techmarines allow them to sleep, and only awake the Dreadnoughts in times of great need. When called to fight, the Dreadnoughts are removed from their vaults and the Rune of Awakening is struck upon their hide.
As the Dreadnought continues to fight through the centuries, the Old One's grip on the material world inevitably begins to slip and he spends more and more time dormant, his mind becoming ever more distant. One of the oldest recorded Dreadnoughts is Bjorn the Fell-Handed of the Space Wolves. Bjorn was a young warrior in the days of the Primarchs and was said to have fought alongside the Primarch Leman Russ himself. Since his interment in the armoured shell of a Dreadnought, he has fought in some of the most famous battles of the Imperium's blood-soaked history and even led his Chapter in defence of their home on Fenris.
Dreadnoughts are called upon when the fighting is sure to be close and bloody. They are best employed in situations where there is plenty of cover for them to take advantage of so that enemy weapons cannot draw a line of sight to them. They excel at fighting in built-up areas, underground tunnels and boarding actions where they can quickly close with the enemy and bring their devastating assault weapons to bear. The weapon points on a Dreadnought allow it to be armed with a variety of armament configurations depending on the tactical situation, and these weapons are broadly similar to those carried by Space Marine Terminators. Dreadnoughts were once used as test beds for new weapon patterns intended for suits of Terminator armour, in particular early models of plasma cannons. However, Dreadnought weapons benefit from increased stability, better targeting systems and a greater ammunition capacity than those carried by Terminators. The sheer size of a Dreadnought also allows it to fit liquid nitrogen cooling systems for its rapid firing weapons, resulting in less overheating and fewer jams.
As well as powerful heavy weapons, Dreadnoughts can also be fitted with lethal close combat weapons that incorporate magna-coil servos to increase the strength of the arms. These allow them to grip and rotate, tearing gaping holes in even the strongest materials, or punch through the thickest armour. The Furioso Dreadnought of the Blood Angels is a prime example of this, its strength easily capable of rending even a Land Raider to pieces.
Throughout history Dreadnoughts have been involved in the bloodiest battles inscribed in the annals of the Imperium. Their acts of heroism are the stuff of legend across all the realms of man and few sights are more inspiring, or more terrifying, than to see one of these great mechanical juggernauts rampaging across the battlefield. Many Dreadnoughts become famous in their own right with tales being told of their courage and sacrifice in the name of the Emperor all across the Imperium.
Three such mighty warriors are Brother Damos of the Angels Porphyr, Brother Severus of the Ultramarines and the legendary Bjorn the Fell-Handed of the Space Wolves. The smallest chapter of their history would fill a manuscript many pages long, their service to the Emperor stretching back over many thousands of years. Indeed, in the case of Bjorn, it goes all the way back to the times of the Primarchs. Detailed here are three of their most famous actions in the defence of the Imperium.
During the Third War for Armageddon, the largest recorded Dreadnought versus Dreadnought confrontation occurred during the attack on the Ghattana Bay Water Processing Plant. Water would be a key resource on Armageddon when the Fire Season arrived and Ghattana Bay was the source of every drop reaching Armageddon Prime.
The Ork attack on the plant had stalled badly. Options were now running out for the Ork Warlord Judrog Irontoof and he committed every Dreadnought and Killer Kan in his force to a single attack. Aiming for a point in the Space Marine line weakened by an earlier Kommando attack, over a hundred Ork machines stomped forward in a densely packed phalanx.
The defenders were battered by the Ork weaponry, their positions swept by the sheer weight of fire. Land Speeder squadrons were blasted from the skies by massed big shootas while bunker after bunker was silenced by salvos of Ork rokkits. Judrog's charge breached the defences and burst onto one of the plant's access roads, leading between towering purification tanks. The Ork machines rumbled on, their power claws ripping each successive gate apart as they pressed deeper into the plant. As they approached Gate 9, however, they were surprised to see the barrier rise to reveal a line of eight Space Marine Dreadnoughts drawn up across the roadway. At their front was Brother Damos of the Angels Porphyr. Critically wounded during the Scouring of Hume and entombed for the last three thousand years, he had faced a hundred such situations before and prevailed. The Dreadnoughts standing with Damos were armed for long-range combat with a mixture of lascannons, autocannons and missile launchers. Their first salvo was devastating, the front line of Ork Dreadnoughts melted under their barrage but were battered aside as the rest clanked forward. The Space Marine Dreadnoughts had better weapons, and each step the Orks made towards the Space Marines cost them dearly, but eventually they were in range and could reply. The Ork Dreadnoughts could not match the accuracy of the eight Space Marine Dreadnoughts facing them, though. Each was a veteran of centuries of war, each a paragon of their Chapter's qualities, each a hero whether clad in flesh or metal.
An advance of four hundred metres had cost the Orks seventeen Dreadnoughts. They still came on though, and howled in fury when they saw the Space Marine Dreadnoughts step back to allow a heavy security gate to be lowered blocking the road. Speeding up they hurled themselves against it, rending the thick steel with their hydraulically powered claws, determined not to let their quarry escape.
Flight was not the plan, however. On the other side of the ruptured gate, the Space Marine Dreadnoughts were ready. There were another nine Dreadnoughts led by Brother Weylands of the Omega Marines, all armed with power claws and a mixture of shorter ranged assault cannons, multi-meltas and heavy bolters. Behind them stood Brother Damos' Dreadnoughts on a rampart of earth and sundered concrete so they could see over the front line. Both ranks opened fire together and for seven long minutes they stood thirty metres from the Orks, firing non-stop into the tightly packed mass of machines. Then the front rank ceased fire, its weaponry white hot, and thundered into close combat. The Orks were tightly packed in the roadway, the sustained fire had given them no chance to press forward and the Killer Kans at the back blocked their retreat. The Ork force was irretrievably entangled, some machines lifted off the ground by the press, unable to move, the front five ranks a smoking ruin. The Space Marine Dreadnoughts cut into them, Brother Weylands leading the way, climbing up over the destroyed Dreadnoughts until he was striding over the packed hulls of still operable machines, alternatively crushing them with stamps and punches. Where a power weapon reared up at him a swift multi-melta shot silenced it.
It had been a bold attack by Judrog's Dreadnoughts but, unsupported and caught at a complete disadvantage, they were helpless. It is testament to their ferocity and fighting spirit that not one Ork machine fled.
The final reserve destroyed, Judrog had no choice but to withdraw. Rearmed Thunderhawks were beginning their attack runs and ammunition was becoming scarce. The defeat would cost Judrog dearly but there was no celebration in the Marine lines. Of the seventeen ancient Dreadnoughts committed to battle, seven had been utterly destroyed with the loss of over 9,000 years of battle experience and loyal service. The Battle at Gate IX remains their testament.
Some of the most ancient Dreadnoughts in the Imperium are those of the Space Wolves Chapter. These venerable warriors have fought the enemies of the Emperor for many centuries or, in some cases, even millennia. Perhaps the most renowned of these is Bjorn the Fell-Handed, a warrior so incredibly ancient that he walked beneath the same skies as the Primarch Leman Russ himself. He was the first Great Wolf of the Chapter following the disappearance of Russ and led the first Great Hunt to find him.
Bjorn's time as Great Wolf was to be short-lived, however. The Saga of the Fell-Handed tells of his mortal wounding in battle as he led the Space Wolves in the rescue of their kin from the Dreadsun Fortress. His attack was successful, but left Bjorn crippled and on the brink of death. Not even the formidable skills of the Wolf Priests could save him and Bjorn's last whispered words as a creature of flesh and blood were that he be placed within the armoured sarcophagus of a Dreadnought. And for the next five hundred years, Bjorn continued to fight for his beloved Chapter, tearing apart the enemies of the Emperor with the lightning claw that had been his favoured weapon while he still walked as a man. On Algol Nine he destroyed the daemon Thran'saba and in Quaran's deserts he slew the Ork Warlord Makrima. The rogue psyker Vornalan died by Bjorn's hand and thus bloody rebellion on Thranx was averted.
But even flesh and steel cannot live forever. The long years of war began to take their toll and Bjorn took to spending longer periods in dormant slumber in the vaulted stasis chambers below the Halls of the Great Wolf. In honour of such a loyal and courageous warrior, the Chapter's Iron Priests allow him his rest, and lovingly maintain his adamantium shell. Once every thousand years, Bjorn awakes and speaks to the Rune Priests, regaling them with sagas long forgotten, testing them on their knowledge of the ancient legends to ensure that the ways of Russ are still being followed. Only in times of dire need would the Iron Priests even consider waking Bjorn, one such occasion being the First Battle of the Fang.
The circumstances leading to the First Battle of the Fang and Bjorn's part therein form a cautionary tale that warns of the danger of trusting visions granted by Chaos. Magnus the Red, cyclopean Primarch of the Thousand Sons, had carried a burning hatred of the sons of Russ ever since they destroyed his home world of Prospero in the dark days of the Great Betrayal. Magnus' followers attacked worlds near Fenris, slaughtering whole populations and laying waste to entire planets in a campaign of terror lasting many years. The Great Wolf Harek Ironhelm sought in vain to engage Magnus in battle, but was chasing shadows as his enemy eluded him at every turn. As more worlds were ravaged, Harek's desire to slay Magnus grew to become an obsession and his quest took him deep into the Eye of Terror, eventually leading him to the world of Gangava. Here he believed that he had found the Thousand Son's secret base and fell upon the world with fire and steel. But Harek had been deceived - the forces present upon Gangava were merely an elaborate ruse executed by Magnus, and as he led the bulk of his Chapter's strength against the allied Chaos forces on Gangava, the Thousand Sons themselves appeared in orbit around Fenris and launched an all-out assault on the home of the Space Wolves, the Fang.
The Fang's defences consisted of a skeleton force of Space Wolves and thralls and its fall seemed assured. Only the most courageous leader could have had any hope of saving the Fang and thus it was decreed that Bjorn the Fell-Handed would be woken from his millennial slumbers to lead the defenders in this most desperate hour.
Bjorn took charge of the Space Wolves, one of the few rare instances where a Dreadnought has commanded a Space Marine force. Bjorn's courage and wisdom in battle were an example to all, and for forty days and forty nights Magnus' warriors could not breach the Fang's defences. Bjorn had fought on Prospero many centuries ago as a Blood Claw and had lost none of the savagery that these hot-blooded young warriors are famed for. He was ceaseless in his determination to withstand the enemy at the gates and his defence of the Fang is regarded as a masterpiece in the art of leadership and military organisation. He planned daring sallies into the ranks of the Thousand Sons and in the midnight dark of the tunnels beneath the Fang he led desperate defences, rallying Space Marines and thralls time and time again as they were forced further and further within their home. Collapsing tunnels as they went, the defenders killed hundreds of enemy warriors, leading them into Bjorn's carefully prepared fire traps and giant cave-ins.
Eventually a pack of Wolf Scouts, led by Haakon Blackwing, were able to breach the ring which Magnus had thrown around Fenris and carried word of the battle to the Great Wolf. Harek's anger and shame were terrible to behold and he immediately returned to Fenris with the full might of the Chapter. Howling Space Wolves descended from orbit and fell upon the Thousand Sons, driving them completely from the Fang. On its lower slopes, Harek and Magnus finally met in single combat, but Magnus was one of the Primarchs, now elevated to a Daemon Prince by the Powers of Chaos, and was more than a match for Harek. The Great Wolf fell, but with his last breath of life was able to grievously wound Magnus before the Thousand Sons fled from Fenris. It is said that it was Bjorn himself who carried Harek to his final resting place on the Fang's upper slopes. With his work complete, Bjorn then returned to the Hall of the Great Wolf to slumber until the day his Chapter should need him once more.
Brother Severus arrived on Macragge as one of sixteen aspirants who had triumphed in competitive games between Quintarn, Tarentus and Masali. These games are held between the triple worlds each seven years to determine which youths should have the honour of attempting to join the Ultramarines Chapter on Macragge. The games which Severus participated in were noted as particularly spirited and hard-fought on this occasion, with over a third of the participants killed or seriously injured.
The young Severus was accepted by the Ultramarines and successfully completed his training in 356.M41. According to records, Brother Severus's early career in the Scout Company was unremarkable, but once he came to full status as a Brother Marine he was frequently commended for his wisdom and far-sightedness. He received his Marksman Honour while a member of the 6th Company in 358.M41 in combat against Eldar pirates, and an Imperial Laurel in the following year ate being wounded in the cleansing of Copul IV. In 362.M41 Brother Severus was promoted to Sergeant in the 3rd Company, commanding a squad through the Siege of Belios and the first Balur Crusade.
When Sergeant Severus and his squad broke through a dangerous Ork encirclement on Balur he was inducted into the prestigious 1st Company, receiving his Terminator honours in 367.M41. The promising career of Brother Sergeant Severus was cut tragically short in 371.M41 when he was critically injured during the Battle of Corinth. Ultramarine Apothecaries used his mortal remains to replace those of Brother Commodius in the Dreadnought Ironclaw which was also damaged on Corinth. Severus adapted well to the transition into the amniotic tomb of a Dreadnought body, retaining all of his former wisdom and battlecraft.
Severus' list of battle honours over the succeeding three centuries grew too long to be listed, culminating in his eventual return to Corinth on 698.M41 during the seven year Corinthian Crusade. In 745.M41 Brother Severus participated in the Joran retaliation against the alien Tau Empire, but the expedition proved ill-starred and the 3rd Company's Captain, Ardias, was killed shortly before the whole force was withdrawn. Urgent new orders sent the company back to Macragge to defend it from the advance of Hive Fleet Behemoth.
Of the great battle in space over the beleaguered world little can be said here, but the masterful defence by Marneus Calgar, Lord of the Ultramarines, can be read of in other places. In the aftermath it fell to the 3rd Company, under the newly elected Captain Fabian, to recapture the northern polar defence fortress on Macragge itself. Tyranid swarms had penetrated the orbital defences and overrun the sprawling complex of laser silos and bastions. The first landings by the company barely held their ground against the swarms of creatures which emerged from the shattered bunkers and tunnels to oppose them, only being driven back by the combined fire of Devastator squads and Thunderhawk gunships. Captain Fabian summoned three Dreadnoughts; Severus's Ironclaw, Maximus's Victory and Dicloetian's Agrippa to assist his troops in clearing the forbidding underground tunnels.
The twisting, intersecting passages were already subtly altered by the aliens' presence, dripping mucus and resounding with horrifying shrieks and screams. The dead lay everywhere, contorted and mangled by the violence of their passing. More than once, Tyranids hid among the dead before ripping into the advancing Ultramarines from ambush. Casualties mounted and the Space Marines were forced to use flamers to burn their way forward. The Dreadnoughts were moved ever closer to the front of the advance as squads peeled off to guard intersections. Agrippa was leading when a flank attack broke across the company like a wave of razor-fanged destruction. In seconds, two squads were overrun and hacked down by a dozen Tyranids. Agrippa's assault cannon painted the walls with Tyranid ichor as they rushed forward, and Maximus was reduced to trampling them underfoot when his power fist was torn away. But the veteran Dreadnought still held the perimeter against the bio-engineered monstrosities until Severus arrived to crush the survivors.
With his searchlight piercing the darkness, Severus now led the advance of the 3rd Company into Silo 8, the cavernous housing of a giant, ship-killing laser battery. As the last squads cleared the entrance, a nightmarish horde of Tyranid creatures spilled out of the shadows on all sides. A hail of obscene projectiles cut through the Space Marine lines, corroding through armour and flesh wherever they struck. Lithe killing beasts tore into the Ultramarine lines with horrifying ferocity, their scythe-like talons clashing against chainswords and armour as bolters chattered frenziedly. Once again it was Severus that held the line, throwing the creatures back with his steel-strength and crushing power fist. The surviving Ultramarines rallied around the giant fighting machine as it blasted through the aliens' ranks, and the next wave of monstrosities swept down upon them.
A fearsome Hive Tyrant, as massive as a Dreadnought itself, thundered into the Ultramarines with a shriek of fury. Three Brother Marines fell to a single of sweep of its claws before Severus charged into the beast. A terrible struggle ensued as the blessed servos and ancient fibre-bundles of Ironclaw were pitted against the preternatural strength of the alien monster's steely sinews. The Tyrant sent Severus reeling with one mighty blow of its claw, but the old Dreadnought recovered and sparks flew as its fist crashed into the creature's carapace. Foul ichor sprayed from the gouting wounds, temporarily blinding Severus' sensors. The beast caught the Dreadnought a terrible blow, tearing through its leg to leave it sprawling helplessly. At this moment Captain Fabian leapt into the fray, knocking aside the creature's claw and evading its scything return swing before blasting it in the head with his plasma pistol until it reared and screamed a final howl of death agony.
With the loss of the Tyrant and the guidance of the hive mind, the Tyranids fell into confusion. The Ultramarine bolter fire cut down the survivors mercilessly as they turned to flee. The 3rd Company was saved and went on to cleanse the polar fortress in its entirety. After the battle, Ironclaw was restored and Severus continues to serve with the 3rd Company to this day. Among the long list of honorifics he has accumulated, the Battle of Macragge remains the proudest, including as it does a share in the first ever accredited kill of a Tyranid Hive Tyrant in close combat.