It was October 2012 when I began my Chaos Space Marines army, the Betrayers of Pain. The new Codex was just released, and leafing through its pages I encountered a dilemma: I knew that I had to add to my army at least one Heldrake, for its rules were too god to overlook it, but the model did not excite me, and I just cannot force myself to buy models that I do not like. I was thinking of ways to solve the problem by converting something else or buying a Hell Talon from Forge World, when a member of the staff in my local Games Workshop showed me his Heldrake conversion. It was a simple repositioning of the wings in a more aerodynamic shape, but it was really effective and, most importantly, I appreciated the result. Knowing that I could do something similar, adding the model to my army was not a problem any more.
As soon as I started assembling it, however, I discovered that I could do something even better. Dry-fitting the two halves of the body and looking at the exhausts on the back, it was clear that there was a face there, the face of a creature born from the Warp and not just altered from its mutagen effects. It just needed a little bit of greenstuff here and there.
The spine-like structure on the new front of the model has been the most difficult part to sculpt. As I could not use the regular armoured plate that came with the kit, for it did not fit at all with this new look, I did not know what to use to cover that part. Maybe the final result is a bit raw, for that was the first time I tried to use greenstuff to sculpt something ex-novo but I am satisfied with the overall look I have achieved.
When it went to paint it, I decided to try a new approach. This was my first creature from the warp, an evanescent monster phasing between the materium and the immaterium, kept stable only by the enchantments woven on the armour used to submit it to the will of its master, so I could not use a layering approach on its flesh, for the end result would have been too “physical” and would have not satisfied me. So the idea of trying to wet-blend colours thinned down to glaze consistency struck me.
It was an experiment, but I am pleased of the result I have achieved.
Maybe it was unclear from the pictures of the unpainted model, but from these you can see that I also modified the flying stand socket on the underbelly of the Heldrake to change its flying angle. With the tail in that position, the model has a natural movement toward right, and I wanted to accentuate it even further to make this Hel-Manta ray look as if it was swimming through the evanescent currents of the warp and not flying in a physical atmosphere.
On the base I tried to recreate a small battle scene with a wounded Burning Ashes Space Marine (my personal Chapter). At the time I was happy with it, but the more time passes, the more I feel unsatisfied. It is too empty and boring, it needs more rubble and more colours, and maybe a bit of wreckage and some difference of height in some points. I do not know when, but I will probably change it in the future.
I was thinking to add another Heldrake to my collection, to make a different conversion and to add some strength to my Chaos army, but the armour has been such a pain to paint, with all those trims, that I don’t know if I will be ever able to persuade myself!