"The woods are lovely, dark and deep, But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep, And miles to go before I sleep."
- Robert Frost
"Are you only the legend, or are you the truth behind the legend?"
- Amphiaraus to
Dante is the Lord Commander of the Blood Angels. He has been a Space Marine for over 1500 years, including the last 1100 as Chapter Master. He has kicked the asses of uncountable xenos, mutants, heretics and daemons in countless wars upon countless worlds.
- 1 Background
- 2 The Blood Angel
- 3 Appearance
- 4 The Man, the Myth, the Legend
- 5 The Sanguinor
- 6 More fluff
- 7 End Times
- 8 Miscellaneous
- 9 On the Tabletop
- Early life
Dante's childhood is detailed in the novel Dante by Guy Haley. According to the book, Dante was born in the Great Salt Waste of Baal Secundus (Baalfora) in approximately 445.M40. His father, Arreas, was a kind but undistinguished member of the Salt clans (Irkuk clan to be specific) that made a living harvesting salt from the chemically contaminated land (they travel in sand roamers, very much like the sandcrawlers of Tatooine). His mother died giving birth to a younger brother when he was seven (452.M40), the baby naturally dying as well.
Dante was the boy's 'Angel' name, equivalent to the traditional Christian baptismal name, whereas Luis was his personal name. Most Baalite clans used their Angel name in day-to-day life, but Dante's people preferred their personal names. So, Luis is generally used in the book for the scenes where Dante is a child.
As Baalfora was a post-apocalyptic hell-hole (think Fallout with a strong flavour of Mad Max), the Salt clans were malnourished, physically stunted, and suffering from radiation. The Blood Angels did not think highly of them as a source of potential recruits. An in-universe observation is made that the Salt Clans were small and scattered, and so the inference to be drawn is that there was not much fighting to be had to breed a martial culture among them. You can imagine Dante's relative chances of becoming a Space Marine in such conditions. That said, life in the Great Salt Waste was no easy-living. Dante killed his first man when he was ten, helping his people fight off nomads who had attacked their caravan.
- Journey to Angel's Fall
Dante had grown up hearing the stories of the Blood Angels from his father. When news came that there was to be a trial (456.M40), Dante decided to attempt it. However, his father Arreas tried to discourage him from attempting to join by guilt tripping about abandoning family. Arreas also pointed out that Dante's chances were not good. As a boy of only eleven, Dante would be much smaller and weaker physically than other potential recruits. The Warlords of the Dark Millennium (WotDM) info book is more explicit in stating that Dante’s growth had been stunted by malnutrition, and his body damaged by exposure to the rad-deserts of Baalfora (but so too the case for everyone else). Regardless, Dante knew the next trials would be a generation away (probably he would be dead then), and so this was now or never. One night, Dante left home without a farewell to his father, making off for Angel's Fall where the trials were held.
Dante made it, showing bravery and character, but also benefiting from a combination of luck and fate. Dante fucked up at the very beginning, losing his roamer to a type of quick sand due to his own fault. He would have died of thirst while traveling across the sand dunes on foot, if not for the Sanguinor, who appeared and pointed the way to life saving water. Dante subsequently befriended a pair of older aspirants (Florian and Daneill) who did not kill him opportunistically (what are the chances?), as you suspect might or should happen to small boys traveling alone in WH40K. Well, Florian and Daneill did contemplate snuffing Dante there and then, but you can only take Grimdark so far.
Thereafter there is a heroic episode in which Dante shows great bravery and resolve, but continuing to benefit from luck. It was the numbers that saw the boys through when attacked by a Fire Scorpion (and it was only a juvenile), but Daneill died when he drank 'thirst water', which sucks the moisture out of anything it touches. The final hurdle is using a winged para-glider to traverse the canyon from the Heavenwall mountains (the 'Angel's Leap', here being where Sanguinius first flew). The potential aspirants were attacked by Blood Eagles, but Dante and Florian were one of the few survivors (both besties by now).
- The trials
After receiving a pass for genetic compatibility, and potential (First Winnowing), Dante begins the first set of athletic trials, where he fails to distinguish himself. He expects to be failed at this stage (Second Winnowing), but makes it through into the second stages, which he also survives without distinction in feats of combat and physical valour. However, it is here that Dante begins to show a flair for leadership, which he uses to help guide his team to victory in the Trial of War. Besides leadership, Dante's biggest strength and ultimate point of character, is his heart and morality. When it came to his final physical test (Final Choosing), the High Chaplain of the time pitted him against his best friend Florian, whom he was urged to kill. Although Florian had reluctantly committed himself to the task, Dante pulled a Luke Skywalker after getting the best of his friend and threw down his staff, telling the Chaplain to stuff it. To which the Chaplain gave him a pass--clearing the most treacherous test of all (Florian obviously failed), one called the Test of Horus. The Blood Angels egg on aspirants to kill their friends, all in the name of the 'greater good' of serving the Emperor as remorseless killers. It is a trick, patterned after Horus (aka Satan) tempting Sanguinius (aka Jesus Christ) on the Vengeful Spirit during the Siege of Terra. All true Blood Angels will do as Sanguinius did. Fucking Brilliant.
In the ultimate trial, the Winnowing of Weariness, aspirants are made to take a long vigil without falling asleep. However, Dante fell asleep (failing the task), dreaming of his parents. It was the Sanguinor that roused him before the Blood Angels could catch on. Damn, he is a man of destiny or what.
During the gene-seed implantation (Blood Change), Dante drank from the chalice containing the blood of Sanguinius, and then slumbered in a sarcophagus for a year. As was normal, Dante had visions of Sanguinius' life and times. What was unusual was that Dante survived drifting in and out of consciousness, while screaming the names of figures and events from Blood Angels history in great torment. Normally those who suffered like this died while trying to claw their way out, or emerged as monsters in the thralls of the Black Rage. However, Dante emerged in normal condition, every inch the angel that the gene-seed implantation was supposed to produce. Some Blood Angels believed that it was a sign of greatness. The Black Rage could not be held off forever, but only forestalled. Dante's mastery of his anger inside the sarcophagus basically foreshadowed his future potential to hold off the Black Rage for an absurd length of time (1600 years and counting).
Generally, the novelisation (if you can't tell by now, it is fucking awesome) tries to avoid making Dante a Mary Sue (Haley neatly undercuts the trope in chapter one), but it is clear that he is a man of destiny. So, there is a bit of a revisionism to the earlier fluff about his non-Mary sueishness that readers drew from the WotDM info book. Dante (at this stage) is clearly not the strongest, but he is good enough, and certainly good-hearted enough to be the chosen of whatever force that guides the Sanguinor.
The Blood Angel
Scout to Chapter Master
In the novels and the rest of the fluff, Lord Commander Dante is generally portrayed as a stern but kind fatherly figure to the Blood Angels, who's a good guy and isn't afraid of anything. But before becoming a legend, he was simply Captain Dante, and before that Sergeant Dante, and of course, a battle-brother and a scout at the beginning.
As a young Space Marine scout, Dante fought against the Orks in the Ash Wastes of the planet Rora, Eudyminous System (467.M40). It was Dante's 23rd engagement. Turns out that his sergeant, Gallileon, is assessing him for potential as a line officer, and so he gets put on the spot. Dante's tactical plan works, but then he was also at fault for leading the Orks onto his squad in the first place. So, good brain, but not an infallible warrior. The larger campaign is more difficult for the Blood Angels Company, and the Sanguinor himself has to bail them out.
A few years later in 470.M40, Dante fought under Sergeant Basileus on Ereus V, participating in the extermination of the Orreti. However, Dante sympathised with the fate of the pitiful Xenos race. Blood Angels indoctrination techniques are quite obviously a fail, or perhaps Dante was too much for them, the Mr. noblebright that he is. On the other hand, Dante and the Blood Angels do end up going all vampire on the Orreti, mercy be damned. Yeah, who would miss these sorry-ass aliens?
Ugluk Basileus: looks like meat is back on the menu boys! Of course, this obviously has to be the first step on Dante's route to non-blood sucking enlightenment.
- Battle Brother
Dante has his first encounter (besides an aspirant who came back mad from inside the sarcophagus) with the Black Rage in the hive world of Tobias Halt (518.M40). Battling the Chaos marines of the Purge warband, Dante's battle-brother Laziel falls to the rage and thinks they are the old legion, relieving the siege of Terra. More problematically for Dante, his fury at his inability to protect the factory workers of Holywell Hive leads to his fall to a bloodlust which culminates in him slaughtering the traitor marines, and then draining the factory workers. After that he swore off the partaking of blood save for sacrimental rituals.
- Sergeant and Captain
Dante rose to become the Captain of the Blood Angels 5th company in 753.M40. He replaced Captain Avernis, who fell during the assault on the Odrius
pirate lair freeport in Mas the year before. At that point, Dante had been a sergeant, leading 'Squad Dante'. The Dark Eldar corsair king Hellaineth attempted to engage Dante in some philosophical discussions, but Dante wisely turned him down. While the port was destroyed, Hellaineth escaped, and not before leaving Dante with some niggling doubts anyway. Damn Space Elves. But no worry, the Sanguinior is there to ensure the emperor's finest remains eternally committed to the good fight.
- Rise to Chapter Master
In the WotDM info book, Dante became the Chapter Master in approximately 900-999.M40. Turns out that Dante was not chosen because he was the best of the Captains, but simply because he was the only surviving line officer after the debilitating Kallius Insurrection that left no more than 200 Blood Angels alive. Some might interpret this as lessening Dante's legend, and indeed the point is raised in the infobook from an in-universe POV. As a legend of M41, there is a retrospective rose-tinted perception of his every deed, and how Dante became a Chapter Master is apparently a matter the Blood Angels care not to discuss. This is stupid. It is actually saying something that Dante is the only line officer left after perhaps the most dangerous campaign the Blood Angels had fought in a long time. In WH40K survivors are the winners, and Dante was a survivor. Whoever wrote that bit of fluff did not think it through.
The WotDM is only one version of how Dante became Chapter Master. Another version of his ascent involves the Secoris Disaster, which is similar enough to the Kallius Insurrection, whilst maintaining some key differences. In this, Captain Dante and Captain Kadeus were the only line officers who survived the Secoris Tragedy (996.M40), a disastrous attempt by the entire chapter (under Chapter Master Sangallo) to cleanse the Space Hulk Sin of Damnation. Only fifty Blood Angels survive. Kadeus would go on to become Chapter Master, and together with Dante, rebuild the chapter. Ultimately, Kadeus would die in the Blood Angels fortress-monastery on Baal, naming Dante as his successor and handing him the Axe Mortalis.
Obviously the dates are off, for the latest fluff has Dante as Chapter Master for over 1000 years. However, due to the Imperium's shitty record keeping (acknowledged from a meta POV in WotDM), it is quite possible to
correct hedge the dates. Alternatively, Dante has been Chapter Master for less than thousand years, and the whole over a thousand year shtick is Imperium propaganda (possibility acknowledged in WotDM). To be sure, the Secoris tragedy comes from the earlier fluff by James Swallow (see Dante: Lord of the Host) and Gav Thorpe (Space Hulk), but not that old. Moreover, the Sin of Damnation (Secoris incident) is mentioned prominently in the Blood Angels 7th ed (2014), whereas the dates for Dante's rule of the chapter is not quite clear from it.
Ultimately, whatever fluff you choose to follow, Dante was a badass. It was to him to lead the Blood Angels Chapter during the Dark Millennium that is M41.
There is some fluff in the novels about Dante's personality as a leader. Basically, it can be said that he functions as an executive authority of the Blood Angels, rather than a 'lord' (like a Jedi Master of the High Council rather than the pre-Ruusan Reformation Jedi Lords). However, the title of Lord Commander is often used in conjunction with High Lord in the Blood Angels series by James Swallow. Meanwhile, the 7th ed codex and WotDM infobook seems to have shortened the title to just Commander, while including subsidiary titles like Master of the Blood Angels and Lord of the Angelic Hosts. It is not clear what exactly is the precise wording of the title. Swallow enjoys appending 'Lord' or 'High Lord' to Commander, but it could be just be reflecting the in-universe reverence of the Blood Angels for Dante. In any case, Dante behaves anything but like a 'lord' or 'master'. He is first-among-equals amongst the Blood Angels (or likes to think himself as such). He addresses First Captain Karlaen as brother, and brooks no ceremony while interacting with Mephiston and others.
According to the WotDM infobook, Dante has led the Blood Angels to their "most glorious and triumphant millennia since the time of the Scouring". Some of his notable personal exploits are mentioned here.
- Terion (Early M41)
Dante led the Blood Angels to relieve the world of Terion at the dawn of the 41st Millennium, defeating an alliance of Night Lords and the Traitor warband known as the Brotherhood of Darkness. In an upbeat ending, the devastated Terion was rebuilt into a paradise, and all that remains of the war’s legacy is a colossal monument to Dante in the capital city. Grimdark? What grimdark?
- The Gates of Pandemonium (M41)
Date kicked Skarbrand's ass at Pandemonium sometime during M41, casting the creature back into the warp. With Skarbrand’s banishment, the Daemonic armies were overwhelmed by the Blood Angels.
- Skylos (M41)
Dante defeated a powerful Chaos chronomancer at Skylos, who had shrouded the whole planet with his dark sorcery. The chronomancer would attempt to use time as a weapon against Dante, even stealing several decades of his life. Unfortunately for the chronomancer, the loss of a few decades is irrelevant to one such as Dante, who hacked him down with the Axe Mortalis (detailed in the short story Dante: Lord of the Host).
- Ruden III (M41)
Dante's victory over Dark Eldar corsairs on Ruden III is mentioned as one of his legendary deeds in Shield of Baal: Exterminatus.
- Vetrim (M41)
Dante's role in the liberation of Vetrim from its Tau overlords and human turncoats is one of the legendary deeds singled out in Shield of Baal: Exterminatus.
- WAAAGH! Big Skorcha (798.M41)
Dante led the Blood Angels in defense of Baal and its moons from WAAAGH! Big Skorcha, which included numerous Orks from three entire Space Hulks.
- Battle of Stonehaven (901.M41)
Dante led the drop assault that broke WAAAGH! Bludcrumpa's decade-long siege of the Forge World Ironhelm.
- Second War for Armageddon (941.M41)
At the walls of Tartarus Hive, Dante and Tu'Shan would famously fight side by side against Ghazghkull Thraka and his bodyguard, winning the day for the Imperium. A generation later, Dante's name is still spoken with reverence in Armageddon, and one of the Armageddon system's deep space monitoring installations was named in his honour.
- The Gehenna Campaign (955.M41)
Dante and the Blood Angels 3rd Company battled against the Necron Legions of the Silent King on Gehenna, his leadership allowing the company to fight the enemy to a stalemate for three standard weeks. When a Tyranid splinter fleet enters orbit, the Blood Angels and the Necrons ally to fight the common foe successfully. However, it turns out that the Necrons were using the Blood Angels, letting them bore the brunt of the fighting (hmmm, perhaps Dante would have done well to internalise the lessons about Xenos perfidy). The Necrons fled before the Blood Angels recognised the treachery, but Blood Angels propaganda made it out that Dante let them leave in gratitude for their 'contributions' to the defense. Heh, perhaps not only his exploits, but also virtues and nobility are exaggerated. Just kidding, we know Dante is the man.
- The Blackfang Crusade (994.M41)
Dante mobilised the whole Blood Angels chapter, leading them to drive the Orks from their empire (twelve worlds) in the Blackfang system, and also its two neighbouring systems. All in a single standard year.
- The Third Tyrannic War (997.M41-early.M42)
Hive Fleet Leviathan, the largest Tyranid force ever to invade the Galaxy, is eventually defeated at Baal. Dante and the Blood Angels play an important role, contributing decisively in the Cryptus Campaign and the defense of Baal (and its moons) itself. Responding to Dante's call-to-arms, every 2nd founding chapter of the Blood Angels and later descendants (save the Lamenters) assembled at Baal. During the fighting, Baal Primus (Baalind) and Baal Secundus (Baalfora) were both destroyed, but the arrival of a relief force led by Guilliman allowed the Blood Angels to claim victory on Baal (8th ed). Dante is alive when Guilliman arrives, but the specifics of the battle and his ultimate survival won't be clear until Haley's Devastation of Baal releases in November 2017.
Dante's eyes are described as pale amber, while his once golden hair has long since turned white (WotDM and the novelisation Dante). In the Blood Quest comic series, his hair is long, going down to his chest ala Thranduil/Lucius Malfoy. Bishounen much?
Dante is so old that his age shows; his face is deeply wrinkled, and incredibly for a Space Marine, there are tell-tale signs of physical aging like loosening skin folds and loss of muscle definition. How old you ask? Apparently, the skins of ancient marines became thick and seamed with shallow wrinkles akin to cracks in leather. Aaand Dante has gone even further beyond that. His wrinkles at one point were so deep that they sharpened his "fine bone" face to "the point of brittleness", while the eyes suck into their sockets. Mainly the reason why Dante never shows his face in public; seeing him uncovered would shatter the mystique of the immortal golden hero. Okay, so not that Bishounen. Think Jedi Master Cin Drallig, with a flavour of Grand Moff Tarkin.
In the novel Deus Encarmine, Dante is described as having a 'hawkish countenance', including an aquiline jaw and nose. It is said he had the "aspect of a predator at rest". So, one can imagine a patrician face, which looks like a snarling Elrond when enraged. Aaand the fangs. Don't forget that Blood Angels like Dante have long fangs which grow as far to prickle the lower lip.
Dante swore off living blood after a nasty vampire incident. Towards the end of the novelisation, Dante drinks blood after fifteen hundred hundreds years, which somewhat reverses his physical aging. Still old, but the blood gives him strength and youth (well, he is a spehss vampire after all). Dante had previously taken sacramental blood, which seems to be a big thing in ceremonies etc. There is no reason why this should not have restored his youth, and indeed, Dante describes it as "borrowed life" as well. Perhaps there is something in the Blood Angels gene that allows them to draw strength from 'living' blood particularly.
Note that in the novelisation Dante brings up the in-universe speculations about the 'functional immortality' of Space Marines. He thinks that marines had rarely survived long enough to test the theory, but seeing himself after sixteen hundred years he doubts it is true. He is old, and wonders how many years he had left in him.
Dante has a deep, badass baritone voice in the Warhammer 40,000: Armageddon video game. However, the Bloodquest: Prisoner of the Eye of Terror audiobook portrays him as having a sophisticated RP - ancient, wise and fatherly. The different setting of these stories (warrior in a wargame vs background role as ancient authority figure) could explain the choice of voice.
The Man, the Myth, the Legend
"You are the greatest hero of the Imperium! Who can claim to have lived so long or achieved so much?"
- Dante's equerry
"I have seen all the evil that the galaxy harbours, and I have slain all whose presence defiles the Emperor."
- Dante to the Blood Angels
Fluffwise, the WotDM for Dante seems to push for a trinity of 'big three' Space Marine Commanders of M41, including Logan Grimnar, Marneus Calgar, and Dante himself. The fluff goes on to present Grimnar as the most beloved figure in a folk hero sort of way, while Calgar turns out to be a four-star badass that is most respected in his capacity as a Chapter Master. In comparison, Dante is presented as a distant hero figure to the people of the Imperium, an immortal golden warrior whose deeds have become indistinguishable from legend.
The WotDM outlines the in-universe myths and legends surrounding Dante. He is basically to the Imperium what Calgar is to the Dark Lord. According to the Imperium, he is the oldest Space Marine alive, whereas that distinction actually belongs to the Blood Angels Veteran Sergeant Cleutin. Who cares about sergeants, eh? (but note the Cleutin fluff was 2nd ed, maybe retconned). Much is also made of the fact that Dante has basically got more shit done than entire several chapters founded in M41. AND the WotDM goes on to state this is not enough for the Imperium, they go full ham in which legend is intertwined with truth ala 'if-it-didn't-happen-it-should-have-happened" myth-making (doesn't go into detail though).
Note that it's not just Imperium propaganda. The Imperium is a decentralised empire of a million worlds, and Dante's legend has been distorted by time and flawed retellings across the galaxy. The WotDM goes on to offer Dante's possible reaction to his legend. One view is that Dante lets his legend grow because he knows mankind needs heroes in the Dark Millenium. Another is that Dante has better things to do than pay heed to the words of mortal men and women.
The novelisation Dante basically states outright that Dante has tolerated the embellishment of his legend to provide humanity with a hero. In the words of Dante himself "I allow my legend to grow beyond all measure of truthfulness. I allow men to think me infallible and potent beyond my means. I embrace it gladly for the service it gives mankind".
Dante himself remains grounded, and tired of the hero worship. He thinks he is no saint and that he has had to pretend to be something he is not. In his words, "...although I am mighty and wise, and of the Adeptus Astartes, I am just a man. Under my armour beats a human heart alongside the one gifted me by the Emperor". Daaaamnn.
Dante has a special relationship with the Sanguinor, who has come to him several times in aid.
- The first time to save Dante when he was dying of thirst while trekking to Angel's Fall for the Blood Angels trial.
- The second time to aid Dante during the trials.
- The third time Sanguinor appeared to save a young Dante's company from the Orks on Rora.
- The fourth time the Sanguinor appeared to pull Dante from the depths of the Red Thirst on Tobias Halt.
- The fifth time to dispel Dante's doubts about the shitty human experience in the Imperium, just before he became Captain of the 5th company.
And...counting. Since becoming Chapter Master, Dante has seen Sangunior many a times. Most recently the Sanguinor appeared after the Cryptus campaign, reassuring Dante there is hope for the Imperium.
On the first occasion Dante had been praying to the Emperor to save him, and on the fifth occasion Dante had been invoking Sanguinius for guidance. This is interesting as the Blood Angels like Dante don't believe the Emperor and Sanguinius to be gods. Who is the Sanguinor and why does he help Dante? The Blood Angles do not consider him divine, but a mysterious entity which helps them in times of great peril. However, Dante was not yet a Space Marine when the Sanguinor first appeared to help him. So, the Sanguinor is some sort of Baalite entity, one who does not restrict himself to helping the Blood Angels.
Dante himself believes the Sanguinor to be a pure entity, and replied as such to an inquisitor who challenged the Blood Angels over the being's true nature. Interestingly, Dante feels close to Sanguinius during the Sanguinor's presence, almost as if "Sanguinius himself were there". Hmmmmm.
Dante and the Imperium
"All my life I have striven to serve not only the Imperium, but humanity. "
In the novelisation, Dante is portrayed as being aware of the grim conditions of humans under the Imperium. Unlike most Imperial commanders, he is not okay with throwing away the lives of Imperial Guardsmen (for whom he has the highest respect), or any other soldier of the Imperium. In the short story, The Word of the Silent King, Dante allies with the Necrons to defend Gehenna from the Tyrannids. Captain Tycho pointed out that chapters had been declared excommunicate traitoris for less, but Dante was prepared to risk it for the people of Gehenna. Admittedly, Dante does have a backup plan to assassinate the Silent King afterward, but he foregoes a much better opportunity in the first place to help defend the people.
Dante's views on the impotent administration of the Imperium are....well. The relevant quote from the novelisation is revealing, "I have fought every foe that mankind must face, from the overt aggression of the orks to the grindings of unthinking bureaucracy". Yeah, Dante just included the lovely chaps at the Administratum among all the vile enemies of mankind he had slain over the last 1600 years.
Dante also wonders, if Sanguinius was a hero, why did he leave the moons of Baal as wastelands, when he could have easily restored them. He questions if an 'Angel' would leave his people to suffer so that their strife-hardened children might make for good warriors. Ultimately, Dante answers his own question, "it was the way it was, because it had to be that way". Grimdark.
Dante on the Xenos
The novel Dante reveals his views on the xenos. Dante thinks that he had been (rightfully) taught to mistrust xenos races, but that he never truly hated them. He proves sympathetic to the Orreti, a dying xenos race pitifully eking out a living by scavenging on dead words (think the gypsy). Unfortunately for the Orreti, dead Imperial worlds are still Imperial, and the Blood Angels exterminate them after they are thought to be responsible for the destruction of a colony world. Grimdark. Actually, exterminate wouldn't describe it. The Blood Angels went all vampire on the Orreti, and even 1500 years later, Dante remembers the incident with great regret.
Dante only truly hates the Tyranids, and that is so because they seek to extinguish life itself. In a display of noblebright, Dante believes "non-humans strove only to survive as mankind strove". Expect to see words like nobility, honour, mercy, and virtue in such scenes, but also perfidy, treachery, and atrocities. Dante would certainly be considered a heretic by many in the Imperium (but recent events might lead one to think otherwise.
Of course, Dante is no idealist opposed to human supremacy (he is a space marine after all). He desperately contemplates an alliance of races, but only for the great war against the Tyranids. However, Dante concedes that he not could not envisage true unity among humans, let alone between the different races. Ahem, suppose Dante has not got the memo yet.
In conclusion, there are some elements which might make Dante seem to be a Mary Sue for WH40K. Oh, who are we kidding. He would be right at home in Star Trek.
Dante and the Imperial Cult
"On this day, as on every other, I ask you grant me wisdom and strength, great Sanguinius, so I may guide our Chapter to ever greater glory."
- Dante praying to Sanguinius
The Blood Angels generally keep to the Imperial Truth, but venerate the Emperor and Sangunius as ancestral figures. However, it is not a stone-cold atheism that is shown by chapters like the Excoriators. There is a lot of room for doubt, and Dante at times finds himself agreeing with the Ecclesiarchy about the Emperor and Sanguinius (well, duh, the baroque Catholic vampires in spehss thing won't work otherwise).
Dante prays daily to Sanguinius in Deus Encarmine, albeit cynically noting in the novelisation Dante that Sangunius had never actually answered his prayers. Hmm, it would seem that Dante and the Blood Angels are yet to to identify why it is that the Sanguinor keeps bailing them out time and again. In the Gathering Storm, it is confirmed that heroes like Saint Celestine and the Legion of the Damned are warp entities that the Emperor himself sends forth to save the day. While there is no confirmation, it is very strongly implied in the novelisation that the Sanguinor is indeed some sort of Blood Angels warp manifestation, and to be associated with Sanguinius in some fashion (the Inquisition likes to think otherwise). When Dante has a moment of doubt, he prays to Sanguinius for reassurance, but doubts if the prayer will be answered. Not so co-incidentally, the Sanguinor appears at that precise moment and tells Dante there is hope for the Imperium.
James Swallow has also played on the atheist/religious angle in The Sanguinor: the Exemplar of the Host. In the story, The Blood Angels veteran sergeant Ganon is a cynic and very atheistic, whereas others in his squad are more spiritual. In comparison, Blood Angels like Dante fall on the agnostic spectrum, and whether the Emperor (and Sanguinius) are divine or not depends on what exactly is a god in WH40k. The one thing that is clear is that there are 'higher powers' at work that help out the Blood Angles in their time of need.
- The Ecclesiarchy and Dante
A lot of people in the Imperium venerate the Space Marines as the Emperor's Angels, and the Blood Angels are at the very top when it comes to being revered (well, at least until Roboute-living-god-Guilliman showed up again). The Sanguinala is a Christmas/Easter like festival in honour of Sanguinius (aka spehss Jesus), and on that day the people of the Imperium wear the livery of the Blood Angels. You should not therefore be surprised to see the veneration even extending to the greatest warriors of the Blood Angels, including Dante. In the novelisation Mephiston: Blood of Sanguinius, fanatical pilgrims and priests even travel to Baal to worship Mephiston. It is not clear how common it is, but evidently this is not considered heresy (note that the pilgrims were led by priests who needed Mephiston's superpowers to bail their planet out, and so this is possibly an one-off display of sycophancy). On the other hand, The Carrion Throne reveals that the 9 loyalist Primarchs are extolled as the archangels of the Emperor, created to battle the 9 "great devils" of Chaos. The word Primarch itself seems to have come to denote the greatest of angels. So, simply by virtue of descent the Space Marines (especially the greatest heroes) can be expected to be treated with a high degree of reverence, being lesser angels.
In the novelisation, Sister Amity Hope of the Order of the Sacred Rose tells Dante and the Blood Angels that they are the "sons" of the Emperor's most "holy offspring" Sanguinius, whose soul is guided by the Emperor, and works through them. Interesting. The Order of the Sacred Rose appears in the Dawn of War series and are rather antagonistic to the Blood Ravens. So, it seems that the Blood Angels find a place in the Imperial cult and are exempt from the contempt shown by some sisters to other chapters.
The GW website states this about Dante: "Amongst mortal men he is nothing less than a saviour, a golden god who descends from the heavens on wings of fire to smite his foes in deadly close combat". There is also a bit in the Blood Angels 7th ed about him being a "golden god" to the "common soldiers" of the Imperium.
The Red Thirst
"He was an angel, not a monster."
- Dante on why he refused to take living blood
Despite suffering from the Red Thirst like all Blood Angels, Dante refused to drink living blood for the longest time. There is a discrepancy in the novelisation about when he took the decision. On the one hand, Dante thinks at one point that he had not drank living blood since the incident on Ereus V, whereas the decision is shown as being taken after he lapses to the thirst at Tobias Halt. In any case, Dante consequently suffered from a constant hunger for blood, compared to an appetite "gnawing at his stomach and soul" and a "hunger that filled his dreams with the bright lustre of blood".
In one council scene, Dante is shown as counting blood drop rubies in a bowl, evidently said to help in meditation. While it is not explicitly stated that it is to ward off the thirst, the immediate context for the scene is his decision not to drink wine spiced with 'dead' blood, and so one can interpret it as an attempt to distract himself from the temptation. Note that Dante did occasionally drink wine spiced with blood. It is just that by that point in the book even the tiniest dollops of dead blood could drive him to almost intolerable temptations. He eventually drinks living blood at the end of the book, rejuvenating him to some extent.
In Deus Encarmine, the Blood Angel battle-brother Koris voices Dante's wisdom that a "Blood Angel who does not strive to question is no better than a mindless servitor". It can thus be argued that Dante is not an orthodox follower of the Codex Astartes, or at least not in the manner many other chapters chose to interpret it. Note that this also depends on if you see the Codex as being an in-universe inflexible bible (see the page), and that bit might just be an innocuous line that has nothing to do with the codex otherwise. In fact, the context for the line in the book itself is about faith and belief. However, it would be still possible that Dante's wisdom encapsulates the codex. Finally, note that the Blood Angels 7th ed says that they adhere as closely to the Codex Astartes as possible, albeit with few important variations.
Interestingly, there is a scene in the novelisation Dante in which Dante reminisces about the glory days of the old legions, set in the context of the rising tide of enemies facing the Imperium. So, Dante seems to be one who would possibly not be adverse to the concentration of Space Marines in one single force, and indeed he calls all the Blood Angels descendants to Baal for the war against the Tyranids. His logic is that only the full strength of the Blood Angels and successors in one single point of action can hope to succeed.
"Death is lighter than a feather, duty heavier than a mountain"
- Imperial Rescript to Soldiers and Sailors
In the novelisation, there is a prophecy made by Sanguinius about the End Times, where a great, golden warrior will stand between the Emperor and the darkness. Dante believes that this golden warrior is him despite most Blood Angels assuming it refers to the Sanguinor. Dante used to castigate himself for what he saw as his vainglory, but he is now increasingly convinced that this warrior is indeed him, holding onto it as his reason to keep fighting through increasingly terrible odds.
"I fear what I have seen. My visions plague me with darkness. So little of comfort can be gleaned from them. The consequences of our victory are dire indeed, as I have described in these writings, and yet there are some things I cannot bring myself to record, visions so dark that they fill my heart with despair.
The dreams of my father are dead, that is certain. Long aeons await of war and suffering that would break the heart of the Emperor to perceive. He never showed any sign that He saw the dark future advancing towards us. Does He know? I cannot credit that He does not. My gift of foresight – if gift it can truly be named – descends from His, and His is more potent than I can conceive. Time and again I have asked myself, did He always know, and did He foresee all that has come to pass? Or was He, like me, taken unawares? The brighter future I once saw has been burned to ashes and a second, rotten potentiality raised in its place. I curse you, Horus, I curse you to the end of days.I have written too often on these matters. I still cannot divine the answer. I shall instead write down my dream of last night. This brought some comfort to me when no comfort ought to be expected, and is thus worthy of record. Dante unrolled the scroll, exposing the next page.
There shall come to pass days of great darkness, when mankind is diminished and all the lights of the world shall be extinguished, and the final scraps of hope torn away. I dreamed I was upon a plain of black sand studded with diamond stars. In the dream there was a great hunger that pervaded all time and space, a more terrible and consuming appetite than the thirst that dogs my sons. It rose from the east of the night, and swallowed the moons of Baal that coursed across the unfamiliar sky. Before Baal Secundus was consumed, a bright light flashed upon it and sped away, outpacing the shadows.The hunger spread rapidly, bloated by its meal of my home. Fortified by the blood of Baal, the formless hunger took shape, becoming a ravenous dragon that consumed the stars in great mouthfuls, until the only light was the memory of their glory, trapped in the diamonds on the sand. As the last star was eaten, the hellish Octed of the traitors burned through the western sky, writ in fire on the starless void. Then this too went out, and I was alone in the dark.
Shadows swirled and parted. The vision lost its disguise of metaphor, and I looked upon a scene that may be a true echo of the future. I saw my father. Ruined. Broken. I knew it was Him, though His body was little more than a corpse, for I could feel His mind. His power was much reduced in potency, and I could feel no sense of consciousness there, merely raging, ungoverned power that threatened to obliterate my sleeping mind. This living corpse of my father was trapped in machinery that fed His soul the essence of others. I do not know if I should commit this to paper, even in my private writings. He cannot ever know of this fate, if He does not already. Or is He aware, and makes this choice between that life in death and the utter destruction of mankind? If so, my respect for my father grows. As the guns of the Warmaster pound at the walls of the Palace, perhaps this miserable reality is the best that can be hoped for. Perhaps this is what I must die to ensure.
The hunger came for my father. The puppets of the Dark Gods clashed with the hunger for the pleasure of killing Him. There was a warrior in gold before the throne, surrounded by my father’s Custodians and other heroes who, mighty though they were, paled next to the lords of our days. There they fought, and there they died. The vision ended as the devourer of flesh and the devourers of souls closed in on my lord and creator. There was despair only, despair and more despair. But before I woke something more. I sensed stirring in the warp, and the touch of my father, His mind made anew, and the knowledge that all might be well.
As I am fated to, so too did this golden warrior lay down his life to protect my father. The precious seconds he bought with his blood could change everything, or they could change nothing. Maybe the vision is false. I pray the future is mutable, and so it has proved in the past. All but the moment that draws near, the reckoning when I must face my brother. That I cannot avoid. I do not know who this golden warrior was. He appeared similar to my Herald, and I saw my own face depicted upon his mask, but he was not me, and he wore a form of armour I do not know. It is certain that he was one of my sons, and whether his sacrifice will prove to be in vain or not, I know this: that he was a noble warrior, true and purer than any of his age, and I love him for that, for it means that my works for the Emperor, at least, have not been undertaken in vain, and that my unavoidable death might also prove fruitful."
Another prophecy concerning Dante comes from the WotDM infobook. In-universe, this prophecy was made by Sargon Eregesh, the Storm Oracle of the Black Legion.
"In the Time of Ending, we will see the final flight of the Dead Angel’s Host. They rise above us on howling wings. They fall upon us in a celestial storm. At their vanguard flies the Last Archangel. To the Neverborn, he will be the Death-that-Soars. To you and I, he will be a mortal man bearing the immortal face of his fallen father. To the Imperium of Man, he will be hope. A warrior of infinite courage. A soldier of infinite sorrows. Beware the golden mask that forever stares and never smiles, weeping tears of frozen gold."
-The Mourner’s Prophecies
This prophecy is independent of the one made by Sanguinius, but it is clear that the fluff has Dante fated for some epic climax. He is tired after sixteen hundred years of service, and clings onto the prospect of a final battle as personal motivation in these dark times.
Finally, this account of Dante's situation from the Shield of Baal: Exterminatus.
Dante has his own theme leitmotif in the Warhammer 40k Armageddon video game. It is titled 'Dante's Retribution' and is an epic boss type music that lets you know shit is about to go down. Not surprising, cause Dante is the Imperium's big bad boss to kick the shit out of enemy bosses like Skarbrand and Ghazghkull. You can listen to it here https://soundcloud.com/danbewick/dantes-retribution-from-the-warhammer-40k-armageddon-ogs. The composer is Dan Bewick.
Damn, just think of that score playing when Dante beats the crap out of Skarbrand and Ghazghkull. The ominous intro transitions to a heroic action beat, climaxing into the score of a victorious Imperium. THE EMPEROR PROTECTS!
Dante's dialogues in the Warhammer 40k Armageddon video game can be heard on playthroughs of the game on Youtube.
On the Tabletop
8th Edition Dante!
Commander Dante himself, one of the big three, and damn does it show. As of 8th Edition, he has changed. First off, his ability to hit or shoot anything on a flat 2+ is a great buff, but when combined with his Chapter Master ability which allows him and other units with the Blood Angels keyword within 6" to reroll failed hits, he and any force he accompanies quickly become a terror to behold. His Death Mask now inflicts a -1 modifier to enemy leadership for units within 3" of him. Keep in mind that the day one FAQ released says that these penalties stack, so slap him with a 5-man Sanguinary Guard squad all with death masks, and you have enemies suffering from a -6 penalty to their leadership holy shit.
As befitting of the oldest and most fabulous space vampire, he is no slouch in combat and has some great equipment. He comes with an inferno pistol that still has a 6" range, but it's an AP-4 weapon with D6 damage that gets to shoot while in melee. The Axe Mortalis has completely changed from seventh edition. It is now a S+2 AP-3 axe that does D3 damage and can reroll failed wound rolls against characters. Throw him at enemy characters and laugh as you tear them down while rerolling failed hit and wound rolls. Did I mention he has 6 attacks now? With lucky rolls, that's a potential 18 damage inflicted on one character or 6 elite models being struck down by this stone cold pimp.