The Earth was being torn apart. Continuous warfare was ravaging its surface into a desolate, apocalyptic wasteland. The last scraps of its long depleted resources were being fought over by hordes of brutal, genhanced warriors. Humanity, at one time unified in its conquest of the stars, was now, once again, in the midst of bitter infighting. Techno-barbarian warlords were attempting to seize and consolidate power, splitting the planet into powerful, feuding factions, while swathes of mankind's collective knowledge were becoming lost forever. All while massive Warp storms swept the galaxy, cutting off Earth from its interstellar colonies, and ushering in an era of fear, anarchy and collapse.
In Warhammer 40,000 lore this was the Age of Strife, around the 27th or 28th Millennium, roughly 13 thousand years before the game's current timeline. It was against this backdrop that the mysterious individual, who would later become the Emperor, stepped from the shadows and declared his intent to reunite the planet.
Into the turbulent affray he unleashed his Legio Cataegis, precursors to the Space Marines; larger, tougher and more savage than his later warriors, but prone to both physical and mental instability. These troops came to be known as Thunder Warriors, due to the Emperor's thunderbolt and lightning symbol often sported on the torso of their proto-power-armour.
They wrestled back control of the planet, and by the 30th Millennium the Emperor was ready to continue his crusade off planet. He phased out his now defunct Thunder Warriors, replacing them instead with the first Astartes (or Space Marines) – more rounded warriors, better suited to the wider theatre of battle, the decentralised leadership, and the potential need for diplomatic solutions.
His earlier troops were thought all but extinct.
But that was not quite the case. At least a handful of Thunder Warriors managed to deny their genetically imposed expiration, and survive right through to the end of the Great Crusade and the beginning of the Horus Heresy. Exactly what happened to these cunning champions is clouded by time, but by the 41st Millennium they must surely all have perished?
A few years ago, hot on the heels of my little Custodes project, I thought I'd have a crack at making a single Thunder Warrior – one of the Emperor's first attempts at creating genetically and surgically enhanced super soldiers, designed to fight in the Unification Wars on Earth. Bigger, but more basic than their Astartes successors, they were meant to be all but wiped out by the beginning of the Great Crusade, circa 30,000 AD. But this is WH40K and, let's face it, anything can happen. Strange relativity effects (a là Interstellar), or weird Warp-based time dilations, or poorly understood arcane techno-magic, or even just because Chaos fancied it, somehow this lone warrior survived long enough to join my collection of 40th-Millennium-era toy soldiers.
His construction involved quite a bit of jiggery pokery, and took a ridiculous amount of time for a single miniature. Here are some of the initial pieces I put together for him.
The greaves on the front of the legs were recast (using Instamold) from one of the Slaughterpriest models. These were then combined with boots from a Chaos Warrior, armour plates from Mark II or III Space Marine legs, plasticard and a bunch of badly hand-sculpted chainmail of some description.
A bit further down the line, the sifted, sculpted and combined pieces started to look like this:
Which, with the inclusion of arms (from what was then the freshly released bona fide Custodes models) plus a load of straps, packs, grenades and armament, ended up looking like this, when assembled:
And now, after a conversation with my five year old son, where he told me he wanted to see a 'tiny soldier man wearing green' my somewhat-slim-thighed Thunder Warrior is finally sporting a little pigment.
As the last of his kind, this model has given me an inkling as to how he may become the first of my new challenge. But I'll talk more about that at some point in the future.