I started painting Death Guard models about a year ago. I find the models detailed and interesting. I have amassed quite an army by now. But, it kind of bothered me how they are always framed as the “villains” in contrast to the “heroic” Ultramarines. In the grim dark Warhammer 40k universe, I felt that was a little oversimplified, so I wanted to read some more “fluff” featuring the Death Guard. So, I recently finished “The Lords of Silence” by Chris Wraight and wanted to share why I found it so impressive.
There are some classically evil characters in this book too. Some characters are almost cliché with their “har har infect and torture.” Other characters are constantly scheming to usurp or betray. Mortarion and Typhus, two of the more notable characters in Death Guard lore have brief appearances, and seem typically villainous.
But a couple of other characters are more nuanced and interesting: One of the protagonists is Vorx, “the Siegemaster”, a Space Marine that has been fighting for the Death Guard since before the Horus Heresy. He is in charge of the eponymous Lords of Silence Warband, a division of the Death Guard, and he commands their Cruiser “Solace.” I found Vorx to be quite an interesting character. He is usually polite, honourable, respectful, and even caring. He has glimpses of being the “warrior monk” that you expect from more noble Adeptus Astartes.
Obviously, Vorx seems like a “bad guy” because his service to the Chaos God Nurgle involves infecting planets, spreading disease, and raising hordes of daemon zombies. But, from his point of view, the monolithic, heartless, brutal, oppressive Imperium is the greater evil. He respects his opponent Loyalist Astartes, and in fact feels pity for them and their plight. He is less sympathetic to the Thousand Sons whose behaviour he considers to be deceitful and hypocritical. I love that complicated shades of grey, where evil and bad are relative terms.
The deuteragonist is Dragan, “the Gallowsman”, a more recent convert to the Death Guard. He left a Loyalist Space Marine Chapter and joined the Death Guard, and is gradually receiving Nurgle’s “gifts.” He is called a “thin blood” because he hasn’t been in the Death Guard as long as some of his peers. But, because of that, he still retains anger, drive, and zeal that seems to elude many older, sluggish, Death Guard. His story is quite interesting too. I wondered how Death Guard recruited or replenished their forces, so Dragan’s recruitment into such an old Legion gives a glimpse into that.
I was also impressed by the genuine use of “science fiction” that Wraight uses. In my experience, better science fiction has commentary or theoretical parables on how a current trend can get much more complicated with advances in time and/or technology. In “The Lords of Silence”, Wraight describes the nightmare that is the agri-world of Najan. The planet is windswept and brutal, with minimal biodiversity, and barely hospitable to its workers. It is being overfarmed so aggressively that it will be completely depleted in less than 100 years, even with constant fertilizing and other interventions. It’s like an incredibly exaggerated version of those “super-farms” that are becoming increasingly common. And, ironically, this world is a hellish nightmare BEFORE the Death Guard invades!
It also frames great battle scenes. Some are scaled in space combat or planet-wide invasions. But Wraight goes into the small elements that make up these larger conflicts, like loading of ship ordnance, or small boarding parties battling in confined corridors. There are lots of great scenarios that could be rebuilt as part of a Warhammer 40,000 game.
I liked the book so much that I want to model some miniatures to represent some of its characters. I definitely would like to have a Vorx model. And I can foresee a great model of Naum the crazed Helbrute dragging the body of a defeated foe like a broken toy.
There is rather limited “fluff” about the Death Guard in the 41st Millennium, so I’d definitely recommend it as a glimpse into this “heroic” army.