A storm comes, like the keening of the wind in the Immaterium, rattling the windows of the Imperium, prying fingers testing around every loose door or latch. The Warp is full of ghosts, the lonely cries of the dying, helpless, unanswered calls for aid. Vox channels once deemed secure are suddenly invaded, secrets spilling like blood. Ships fall burning in the void. From sump to spire, workers in every hive riot in terror, fouling the engines of their masters with their own bodies. Contagious madness spreads like fire. None are immune. Planetary governors fire upon their own men. Servitors, suddenly cognisant, turn their once vacant minds to treachery. Primitives on feral worlds acquire devastating knowledge, arcane secrets hidden since Old Night divined by haruspices from the guts of their goats. Cogitators stutter with gusty laughter, the machine spirits within them howling like beasts. Across the sector all astropaths together begin the chant the same refrain. “Kell, Kell, Kell is upon us. The Lord of the Coming Night is here”.
Brutal tyrant. Peerless general. Visionary. Madman. Traitor. Following on from my last post which mostly focussed on Chapter Master Calgacus here’s the other side of the coin, Kallamoon Kell – Lord of Chaos and Master of the Beasts of Ruin. Unlike Calgacus, where the design of the model fed directly into his background and inspired many of my ideas about his chapter, Kell was already well established in my imagination long before I began gathering together the components needed to build him. By that time I had already built a sizeable collection of Chaos Space Marines, and their Daemonic allies, so with Kell the challenge was creating a model that suitably lived up to the legend and would stand out as the leader without looking impractically over the top.
In building Kell I used, by my count, pieces from at least fifteen different kits. The majority of these were from the Chaos range (both 40k and Warhammer) but various loyalist and xenos bits have snuck in there as well.
Unlike many other chaos lords he has not dedicated himself to any one god, nor does he flit anxiously from one to another. Rather he courts the favour of all four, building his empire and burning world after world in their names. He knows that to attempt to play the Chaos Gods against one another is to take a terrible risk for they are unlikely to be amused by what they must perceive as a pawn trying his hand at the Great Game. For now however he remains too valuable and too successful to idly quash. So long as he continues to wreak significant havoc in their names he retains their grudging favour but should he slip they will turn on him, united in their rage.
I don’t for a moment believe that Kell trusts the chaos powers or sees them as anything other than a way of increasing his personal empire. Part of that distrust, I suspect, comes from the degeneration of his left arm into a trashing tentacle. Originally I used the part purely because I thought it looked good. As I worked on Kell however I started to think about why the most obvious physical manifestation of the warp’s influence on him was this vestigial limb, especially when so many of his followers are wildly mutated. The tentacle, then, became part of Kell’s story; the first gift he received from the dark gods. Given his monumental ego and the scale of the destruction he has perpetrated in their name it’s safe to say Kell would regard this “gift” as something of a disappointment. Rather than chop it off however he has kept it as a permanent reminder of the danger of relying on any higher power – be it the Imperium or the Gods themselves. To him the tentacle is a way of keeping his bitterness and hate for the Gods fresh, a token by which he ensures he never falls for the whispers of temptation that each offers him.
I also can’t help but imagine the tentacle limb as possessing a sentience of its own, rebellious to the body it adjoins and jealous of the bio-mechanical talon arm Kell has had grown to replace it. Thus Kell plots against the Dark Gods, constantly playing them against each other and subverting their attempts to control him whilst his own arm remains a devoted agent of the Gods, secretly working against him. I would say that someday it will strangle him in his sleep but between the Gods he spurns, the monsters he rules, the brothers he betrayed and his own relentless desire for power I can’t imagine he ever sleeps anyway.
In terms of the concept behind the model I drew pretty heavily on Abaddon the Despoiler for inspiration. He is, after all, in many ways the arch-adversary of the 40k universe. Amongst the big players only Ghazghkull Thraka, the Tyranid Hive-Mind and Imotekh the Stormlord really come close in terms of destructive, empire-burning power and ambition, and none of them combine that with the human element, the way in which Abaddon remains, at core, just a man. It’s this that, to me, makes him most interesting as he remains something of a self-made Lucifer, every victory and scrap of power won by his own efforts. This makes him rather different to his genetic father, Horus, or the surviving deamon-primarchs, all of whom were gifted their enormous powers by the Emperor and who achieved dominion over worlds and solar systems simply through the fact that they were almost unimaginably stronger, tougher and quicker to learn than any other candidate.
In spite of having based the model on Abaddon, the background I wrote for Kell falls closer to that for Lugft Huron, the deposed Tyrant of Badab (and originator of some of the finest and most quotable lines in 40k). Particularly it was this line in the Chaos Space Marines codex that grabbed my attention, when Huron declares “The Imperium is a weak old man, ready and waiting to be broken apart by his vengeful sons”. Kell does not have his eye on the throne of the Imperium, he knows it would be an albatross around his neck, a grim anchor to drag him down. No man can command the Imperium, it is too vast, too complex, to choked with internal strife and external assault. Even the Emperor, easily the most powerful and wise individual (human is too small a word) to have ever lived, could not hold it together for long before his bickering sons turned upon him. Abaddon will discover, almost as soon as his power-armoured bum is settled upon the throne of Terra, that an empire is a very different thing to command than an army. There are worlds to be governed, taxes to be collected, laws to be enacted. Hold too much power to himself and it will be overwhelming, give too much away and those he promotes will soon begin to imagine themselves taking his place. His allies too make for powerful warlords but less than useful administrators (unless you can imagine Kharn or Tyrphus governing a sector with any degree of aptitude). The Warpsmiths may be rather sharp at making warmachines but what about the hum-drum tools of everyday living that the servants of the Imperium require to do their duties? Amongst the stinking mutants he has gathered from the death worlds of the Eye of Terror he is unlikely to find suitable replacements for the Inquisition, the Arbites, the Astra Telepathica or the Ministorum and yet if he allows those organisations to stand they will plot against him, a ruthless, restless resistance that will take generations to crush. All the while the Great Waaargh will gather pace, the Tyranids will swarm through the galactic east, the Necrons will rise from their ghastly tomb worlds and his new Imperium will burn.
Better by far to carve out an empire on the fringes, to lay claim to a few systems and plunder from the rest as it falls.
With both Kell and his adversary Calgacus poses were deliberately chosen to reflect their personalities. The line between good and evil is pretty hazy in 40k, with even the supposed heroes coming out a rather dirty shade of grey. A good summation can be found in Forge World’s Badab War series, describing the Space Marines.
“Beyond their martial trappings and the endless roll of glorious victories, doomed last stands and courage in the face of a hostile universe a Space Marine fundamentally is a superhuman engine built, bred and trained for war… a monster by any other name”
Imperial Armour Volume 10 – The Badab War Part Two (Alan Bligh)
Thus rather than a glorious champion I wanted Calgacus to appear bullish and relentless, revealing his aggressive, at times even bloodthirsty, nature as he parries and slashes with his lightning claws. Kell, on the other hand, is a leader of men, a general who takes the long view in his campaigns, whilst Calgacus is solely a warrior, albeit a valiant and inspiring one to those under his command. Kell is a tactician, a cunning and charismatic orator who has united both daemons and mortals in his cause. Doing this has required his wits and strength of character as much as raw brawn so I posed him shouting an order and urging his men forward towards an unseen target.