We Will Crush The Open Sky

HeldrakeThe Heldrake, perhaps more than any other model in the Chaos range, has really divided opinion. Both the aesthetics and game-play aspects have been covered exhaustively online and as usual I’ve got nothing to add on the second point. As for the first I freely admit to being in the “fan” category. 40k, to my mind, has always been fantasy rather than science fiction. After the legions of daemons, the ramshackle Ork machines that only work because their creators never imagine that they won’t, the vampires, zombies and the werewolves I was never going to balk at a bio-mechanical dragon. Who am I to say “Yes, well, I was fine with the decaying God-Emperor, the heavily armoured giants riding on wolves and the need to kill your enemies by strapping a chainsaw the size of a block of flats to a huge walking church but a dragon? Steady on!”
In fact as soon as I saw it I wondered why it hadn’t seemed as though it was missing before.
Also, and it doesn’t hurt to reiterate this, the model is magnificent. Looking around on the internet there are some truly splendid re-imaginings of the beast out there but I decided to stick with the model that initially inspired me and built the kit as standard, without any major tweaks.
HeldrakeHeldrakeI won’t deny, painting her was a real chore, but I’m very pleased with the result. The combination of the many flat armour planes and complex ironwork meant there was no easy way to paint one without compromising the other. Glad I took the time over her though as she looks cracking swooping over the heads of my foot-slogging rank and file.
HeldrakeI armed Ragnalla, as I named her, with a baleflamer – not for any tactical or aesthetic reasons – but because first and foremost a dragon should breathe fire. Not that having her spit bullets wouldn’t be cool but fire is kind of their thing, you know?
HeldrakeUnusually amongst chaos warmachines the pilot of the Heldrake might actually want to be there. I know this point is debatable as the codex describes their anguish as they are subsumed into the core of their craft, the atrophied heart left behind as the machine achieves daemonic sentience. Fair enough but I can’t help but wonder why this might be. After all the pilot has given themselves to chaos, body and soul, and been rewarded with ever greater superiority in the air, a fusion of pilot and machine that grants them ultimate power as masters of the air. Why should the cruel joy of destroying enemy aircraft and panicked, fleeing troops on the ground be reserved for some daemonic entity whilst the pilot writes agonised by the exact destructive power it once craved? Why retreat at the final moment, horrified by the ascension it has worked towards for centuries, when it could embrace its power and revel in the terror of its foes? Internment in a Helbrute sarcophagus may be a living torture, whilst the malevolent spirits that guide the daemon engines must be lured inside and trapped. A Heldrake alone has the opportunity to ascend. It may never become a Daemon Prince but it need not become a Spawn either – instead finding a middle road to unimaginable power and near immortality.
HeldrakeSince I’ve been working on Kallamoon Kell, my Chaos Warlord, I’ve been considering making a “pre-chaos” version of him, showing him as he looked before his corruption. As I was writing this blog it occurred to me that it could be fun to do the same for Ragnalla. Before the rituals that saw her become the fleshy, foetal mind at the core of this iron beast I imagine her as an arrogant, even cruel, Imperial air-ace, used to getting whatever she wanted. Born into the nobility and selected before birth to join the Imperial Navy’s fighter pilots her combination of innate skill, insufferable self-assurance and decadent lifestyle would provide Kell with both the resources and the means to turn her to his cause. Not that I’m committing to anything, but it would definitely be interesting. We’ll just have to wait and see if I find the time and inspiration to make it a reality.

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