"I have seen worlds burn and crushed nations underfoot, torn down the idols of false gods and slaughtered kings like cattle. Presume not to order me, tiny man, for I am war, and you are no more than chaff before the scythe..."
- —Venerable Targas of the Executioners to General von Litzner of the Jantine Cataphracts
A Contemptor Pattern Dreadnought is an ancient Imperial cybernetic combat walker used by the Space Marines in the days of the Great Crusade and the Horus Heresy, 10,000 Terran years before the present day. Like the current patterns of Dreadnoughts now in service, the Contemptor Pattern Dreadnought served as a cybernetic sarcophagus for an Astartes who had been so badly wounded in battle that his only chance for continued service to the Emperor lay in being interred within the cybernetic sarcophagus of a Dreadnought. The Contemptor Pattern Dreadnought, like much of the technology developed at the dawn of the Imperium of Man, is larger and more powerful than its standard pattern counterparts. The Contemptor Dreadnought was once a key part of the earliest Space Marine Legion forces raised on Terra in the 31st Millennium to initiate the Great Crusade. Such relics are sometimes recovered as archeotech by the Imperium in the 41st Millennium and then used to supplement the forces of the present-day Space Marine Chapters.
The Contemptor Pattern Dreadnought was once a staple of the armoured might of the Space Marine Legions first raised on Terra following the end of the Unification Wars. Evidence of their ancient origins exist in the forms of sacred Chapter memento mori and other ancient Imperial monuments raised on worlds such as Necromunda and Lorin Alpha. This suggests that the Contemptor Pattern Dreadnought played an integral part in the earliest Astartes forces raised on Terra for the Great Crusade.
A more powerful combat walker than the current patterns of Dreadnought in service with the Adeptus Astartes in the late 41st Millennium, the Contemptor Pattern Dreadnought featured many technological systems that found a parallel in the combat robots of the ancient Legio Cybernetica, including such fabled techno-arcana as Atomantic Field Generator technology that would later be refined and incorporated into the Storm Shields used by Space Marine Terminators and other now-lost secrets from the Dark Age of Technology that were meshed with the Contemptor's basic systems. Another interesting aspect of the Contemptor Pattern was the design of the Dreadnought's head. The oversized metal helm possessed the precious cargo of sensor nodes and visual Auspex and pict-finders linked to the foetal corpse curled deeper within. The Contemptor was fashioned with the simulacrum of a head to focusits pilot's awareness fowards. It helped to create an impression within the corpse's neurological sensory input/output that it was still alive, for it saw the outside world just as it had seen it in life: from a human perspective, albeit from a much taller vantage point than in the wounded Astates' previously organic form.
During the height of the Great Crusade, the Contemptor served alongside the standard Mars Pattern Mark IV and Mark V Dreadnoughts as a spearhead unit for the Legiones Astartes. During the Horus Heresy and the wars that followed in its wake like the Great Scouring, they bore the brunt of the fighting by Dreadnoughts in every theater and as a result suffered the heaviest losses. Like so many of the Imperium's most advanced and sophisticated war-fighting technologies, the ability to manufacture and maintain the Contemptor Dreadnought was essentially lost in the chaotic aftermath of the Heresy. The few of these relics that remain in service in the 41st Millennium are incredibly rare pieces of archeotech even in comparison to their fellow Dreadnoughts. But when they take to the field, it is as a living reminder of the Golden Age of the Imperium when the Emperor still walked amongst Mankind, and the foes of humanity tremble at the sight of its ancient glory.
The standard Contemptor Pattern Dreadnought is outfitted with a Twin-linked Heavy Bolter attached to one arm and a massive Dreadnought Close Combat Weapon on the other with a built-in Storm Bolter. Smoke Launchers complete the standard weapons load-out. A Contemptor's standard weapons complement can be replaced with a number of different weapons to suit different tactical needs, including a Multi-melta, a Twin-linked Heavy Flamer, a Twin-linked Autocannon, a Plasma Cannon, a Kheres Pattern Assault Cannon, a Twin-linked Lascannon, a power-leeching Heavy Conversion Beamer, and a Chainfist with a built-in Storm Bolter. A Contemptor can replace its built-in Storm Bolter with a Heavy Flamer, a compact, Dreadnought-sized Plasma Blaster or an ancient Graviton Gun. It can be outfitted with extra Ceramite Armour Plating, a Searchlight, a carapace-mounted Cyclone Missile Launcher and an advanced Targeting Augury cogitator system to increase the accuracy of its ranged weapons arrays. All Contemptor Dreadnoughts are protected by advanced Atomantic Shielding which generates a protective gravitic shield around the walker using an advanced Atomantic power core and which provides greater protection from both ranged and melee attacks for the walker. However, when damaged, the Atomantic power generator can overload and result in a devastating miniature atomic explosion which can badly damage nearby allied units.
Some rare examples of Contemptor Pattern Dreadnoughts have been known to carry strange and singular weapons that find their origins in the Dark Age of Technology such as the Kheres Pattern Assault Cannon, which is considered by some Imperial savants of the techno-arcane to be the forerunner of the Terminators' Assault Cannon, compact Plasma Blasters capable of being fitted to the carapace of a Dreadnought and Gravity Flux Weapons like the Graviton Gun whose secrets were ultimately lost during the civil war between the sects of the Adeptus Mechanicus known as the Schism of Mars at the outset of the Horus Heresy.
Blood Angels Contemptor Pattern Dreadnought
The Blood Angels Chapter and its Successors have long been considered unique amongst the Adeptus Astartes as a result of their history and much of their wargear, as well as for their Armoury and the "taint" that some whisper hangs over the Blood Angels and their Brethren since the death of their Primarch Sanguinius during the Battle of Terra at the end of the Heresy. At the end of the Great Crusade, the Blood Angels Legion fielded a large number of Contemptor Pattern Dreadnoughts in its ranks, which had been optimised for close assault duties as was always the tactical preference of that Legion. Very few of these walkers survived the horrors of the Horus Heresy that followed. In the millennia afterwards, the Furioso Dreadnought came to dominate amongst the ranks of the Blood Angels' Dreadnought brothers and what Contemptor Dreadnought remained had been distributed to the Blood Angels' Successor Chapters as living monuments to both the triumphs and the tragedy that defined the Blood Angels Legion's past. They became living monuments of war intended to tie Blood Angels Astartes yet unborn to the fragile and fading memory of the lost glories of Sanguinius.
The Blood Angels Contemptor Dreadnought is largely identical to the standard Contemptor with only a few key differences. The Blood Angels variant is optimised for close assault combat and so replaces the standard Contemptor's weapons load-out with two Blood Fists (Blood Angels variants of the Power Fist) with built-in Storm Bolters and Smoke Launchers. It can replace its Blood Fists with Blood Talons (Blood Angels variants of Lightning Claws) and can also make use of a carapace-mounted Magna-Grapple. Unfortunately, like all Blood Angels Astartes, the Space Marine within this Dreadnought can still fall victim to the Chapter's Flaw known as the Black Rage.
Space Wolves Contemptor Pattern Dreadnought
The Contemptor Pattern Dreadnought has an uneasy reputation as a result of the dark and strange history of this walker within the ancient Space Wolves Legion which was woven into the sagas and legends of the present day Space Wolves Chapter. The Contemptor was never as numerous within the Space Wolves as it was in some of the other Space Marine Legions of the Great Crusade era as they favoured the Mars Pattern Mark IVs and Mark Vs due to their robust natures and ease of repair. The Space Wolves' Contemptor Dreadnoughts developed a reputation within the Legion for engaging in excess on the battlefield and unwarranted savagery that stained the character of those interred within the Dreadnought's armoured carapace. This infamy became a form of self-fulfilling prophecy in some cases as the superstitious Iron Priests of the Chapter began to inter only elite fallen Astartes who already possessed sagas relating deeds darker than most of their peers in pursuit of the foe. As a result, the few Contemptor Pattern chassis that survived the Fall of Prospero and the heavy losses the Chapter sustained during the Wars of Apostasy of the 36th Millennium still serve, but are always looked upon as troublesome and ill-omened allies at best by the Astartes of the Great Companies. They are valued for their great prowess in combat and always afforded the respect that all Dreadnoughts are due, but are never fully trusted as is normally the due of such living ancients amongst the Get of Russ.
Space Wolves Contemptor Pattern Dreadnoughts are essentially identical to the standard variant of this Dreadnought pattern save for the addition of Smoke Launchers and some morale-building wargear that is unique to the Astartes of the Space Wolves, such as Wolftail Talismans and Wolftooth Necklaces that are derived from the massive, semi-sentient Fenrisian Wolves. Additionally, unlike in other Chapters, the few Contemptor Pattern Dreadnoughts left to the Space Wolves are infamous war engines whose stories are filled with ill-omens, blood and death. As such, these Dreadnoughts are defined by three special sagas that shape the personalities of the warriors within these Ceramite behemoths, including:
- The Saga of the Black Cull: A thousand times a thousand dead can be heaped at the feet of this Contemptor Dreadnought, who has shown unwarranted excess upon the battlefield in his pursuit of blood. These Dreadnoughts will actively seek out enemy infantry to slay, no matter the tactical cost to their fellows.
- The Saga of the Forsaken One: This Contemptor Dreadnought's deeds before his internment within his Ceramite shell were dark and marred by unwarranted savagery. Though his Battle-Brothers remain respectful, they do not wish the shadow of his deeds to blacken their own names. As such, this Contemptor Dreadnought will fight alone and will not be supported by any of his fellow Astartes should he enter close combat.
- The Saga of the Iron God: The warrior within this Contemptor Dreadnought has grown prideful as a result of his enhanced abilities in combat and seeks out other Dreadnoughts or walkers in combat to display his superiority, no matter the tactical cost to his fellows.
Contemptor-Mortis Pattern Dreadnought
In the time of the Great Crusade, Dreadnought combat walkers primarily served as heavy assault units and highly mobile weapons support platforms for the Space Marine Legions. They were highly valued for their ability to endure under very heavy enemy fire and to operate in locations and theatres where traditional combat support vehicles would be impractical or downright impossible to use. The Contemptor-Mortis sub-pattern used the more advanced Contemptor chassis as a potent carrier of heavy weapons. It was able to target and destroy the foe at close range and was also outfitted with an advanced Helical Targeting Array that allowed it to provide a Space Marine spearhead force with close anti-air support when needed. During the last years of the Great Crusade, the Contemptor-Mortis sub-pattern was widely used by both the Dark Angels and Iron Warriors Legions, although it was used to some extent by all of the Astartes Legions during this era. Ten millennia later, there remain several Contemptor-Mortis Dreadnoughts that are still operational. They are revered both as potent relics of the Imperium's Golden Age and as powerful weapons by those few Space Marine Chapters lucky enough to still possess them.
The Contemptor-Mortis differs from the standard pattern Contemptor Dreadnought only in being outfitted with 2 Twin-linked Heavy Bolters and Smoke Launchers as a standard weapon load-out and in the integration of a Helical Targeting Array that allows the Dreadnought to unleash its heavy weapons as dedicated anti-aircraft support.
Chaos Contemptor Pattern Dreadnought
"Dark have been my dreams, crimson dim and whispering souls I have taken. My eternity wakes again and again to kill, to reave bloody across the stars. This is my reward, my slavery, my sustenance, a chalice of flesh, burned in offering to the Dark Gods."
- —Ramshek the Ever-Living, War-Adept of the Thousand Sons
In the aftermath of the galaxy-wide conflict known as the Horus Heresy and the subsequent Great Scouring, the Traitor Legions were pursued by the vengeful Imperium and cast into disorder and retreat. They were eventually driven into the shadow of the greatest Warp Storm in the galaxy, known as the Eye of Terror. During their flight from their persecutors, the Traitors lost much of their cherished and sacred wargear or it became corrupted and scavenged. Much of the more advanced techno-arcana was cast aside in favour of arms more readily manufactured and maintained by the hell-spat forges of the Dark Mechanicus. But even during these dark times for the servants of the Ruinous Powers, the rare few Contemptor Pattern Dreadnoughts were always held as a most precious resource by those Chaos Space Marine warbands fortunate enough to possess them. The nightmarish intellects of the warsmiths of the Traitor Legions fashioned daemonic replacements for those technological systems of the Contemptor Dreadnoughts that they no longer possessed the skills or the materiel to replicate.
Unable to maintain the Contemptor's original arcane armaments in exile, the Dark Magos replaced them with occult weapons of diabolical design, forged in blood and suffused by daemonic force, such as the Soul Burner which unleashes explosive blasts of daemonic force that devours the souls of its victims, and the Butcher Cannon, a heavy calibre rotary gun whose shells are bound with daemonic runes of anathema and bloodletting to increase their penetrating power and murderous toll. Another notable piece of forbidden Chaotic technology incorporated within a Chaos Contemptor is the replacement of its standard Atomantic power generator with a Warp-infused Hellfire Reactor that charges its armoured carapace to provide a preternatural resilience and also serves as a hungry vortex for the soul-stuff of those it has killed. Enemy psykers are particularly vulnerable to its relentless hunger. The cost for this boon, however, is the lost of the advanced Atomantic Shielding used by the original Contemptor Pattern Dreadnought.
Though few in number, these ancient relics have changed hands over the millennia many times and carried out countless dark deeds in their wake. Chaos Contemptor Dreadnought chassis have always been preserved for the interment of powerful Chaos Lords, Dark Magos Hereteks and sometimes even worse. As a result of their exalted nature and favour with the Dark Gods the occupants of these Dreadnoughts have avoided the inevitable madness that normally consumes other Chaos Dreadnoughts. These potent combat walkers fuse together the power of Mankind's lost technological might with the diabolic forces of the Warp to create killing machines that are more than a match for any fielded by the forces of the Corpse Emperor.
Chaos Contemptor Dreadnoughts are normally dedicated to one of the four major Chaos Gods, which provides the following sorcerous boons in combat:
- Dedication of Khorne: The Chaos Contemptor Dreadnought can be consumed by a Khornate Berserker rage that increases the speed and velocity of its attacks when it engages in close combat.
- Dedication of Slaanesh: The Chaos Contemptor Dreadnought is outfitted with sonic weaponry that mimics the effect and usage of grenades and allows it to often gain the drop on the enemy in ranged combat.
- Dedication of Nurgle: The Chaos Contemptor Dreadnought is afflicted with the decay and pestilence of the Plague Lord and finds itself more resistant to external damage as a result.
- Dedication of Tzeentch: The Chaos Contemptor Dreadnought finds its effectiveness, damage and ability to target the foe with Bolter and Flamer weapons to be dramatically increased as a result of the arcane blessing of the Lord of Change.
- Imperial Armour - Apocalypse - Second Edition, pp. 24-28, 107
- Imperial Armour Aeronautica, pg. 38
- The Horus Heresy - Collected Visions (Background Book), pp. 23, 30, 45, 57-58, 65, 77, 91, 101, 174, 176, 180, 228, 238, 258, 276, 296, 298, 302, 306, 333, 355
- Imperial Armour - The Horus Heresy - Book One: Betrayal, pp. 6, 57, 76, 99, 115, 134, 165, 170, 174, 177-178, 180-181, 200-201, 205, 227-228, 241, 255, 260-261, 263, 288
- Betrayer (Novel) by Aaron Dembski-Bowden, pg. 133