The dark armoured warriors stepped further into the darkness of the tunnels, moving carefully over the loose sand and scree that covered the incline. There were four of them, the rest of the band left above to guard the entrance against any intruders while the chosen few ventured deep into the tombs. They were looking for something, something to bring their lord greater power.
At the bottom of the stone ramp the warriors paused, listening. The tunnels around them were inky black, not even the strange glowing crystal the cave above had contained. It was also quiet, still, not even the sound of the wind whistling through the caverns.
“Rhalar, light.” The tone of the leader of the band, Rhazgra the Seneschal, was short and to the point, the brisk words of a commander used to seeing her action done. She didn’t bother to turn, instead crouching behind her shield, her mace held low in the enclosed space.
“Of course, sister” the taller mage answered, her voice with an ethereal edge to it, the greenish glow of the scars in her cheek become stronger as her hand ignited, green fire wreathing it like a beast desperate to flee. With a delicate motion, she place the fire inside the top of the staff, letting it writhe over the metal as in it was in pain.
“Where to now Seneschal? These tunnels all look the same.” The Dour asked, his voice like the grinding of stone against stone, his axe resting against his shield as his helm leaned forward.
“Rhalar will guide us, won’t you beautiful?” Arkfel the Slayer, the pelt of a great scaled beast over his shoulder moving as he laughed quietly to himself, only stopping when he felt the glower from his leader.
Ignoring such pedestrian things, the sorcerer lifted her glowing hands, the magical energy now spilling fully from her eyes and the scars on her face before evaporating into the air. She turned to look down each of the tunnels, the glow seeing to burn away the darkness, before she focused on one in particular. “The way ahead. There is something dangerous, old, long dead but now disturbed.” Rhalar lifted up her hands, letting the staff float beside her as she pushed her mind forward, attempting to understand the presence before her.
“The treasure’s guardian? Or something else those damn Templars have disturbed?” Rhazgra asked, turning slightly to look at her sister. Spotting the way her hands shook and the way green fire was emitting from her eyes even as her face creased with the effort, Rhazgra placed her shield down and delicately guided her sister’s hand back to the staff, the cold metal bringing her back to the present. She seemed to sign, her shoulders heaving as she drank in the cool air.
“Careful, beloved sister. It would be unwise for you to push yourself too hard before we have reached the prize. I’ll need your mind to unlock it’s traps.” She pulled her taller sister’s head down so their brows met, the anxious sweat of the mage resting against the cool of the warrior. “Besides,” she smiled “I would hate to have to leave you behind in favour of the treasure.”
Rhalar smiled. “I know sister, but I do not think you will need to. I know The Patron smiles on us this day. I can feel her whispers in the air.”
Yep, it happens to the best of us. Eventually anyone playing Sci-fi or Fantasy finds themselves looking at Chaos Warriors and reflecting on just how cool they look. They combine the glorious appeal of knights in armour but with that dark fantasy baroque look that means they just drip with character. They are the warriors that burn down the hero’s village as child, thus setting off the story. They are the Dark Figures that chase your heroes across the plains, slaying anyone in their way. And right at the end, they are the army you fight through to take on their leader. As you might guess, I adore the artwork and mental images, even if the normal models (released back in Warhammer Fantasy Battle days) are very static/designed for ranking up.
Seeing as I’m now working on very small (honesty) fantasy collection, and after seeing the Underworld Warband back when it was announced, I decided that these much more dynamic warriors were exactly what I wanted. Each of them looked like a real threat, a champion of the dark gods assembled alongside allies and rivals to take the fight to the enemy. What better troops to follow my Chaos Lord (who I’ve designed as some kind of Cursed Warrior/Undying King) than a collection of highly skilled individuals who just happen to be able to work together.
As a test bed, I decided to paint up the Underworld Warband “Khagra Ravagers”. Comprising of three warriors and a mage, it’s a great little introduction into the range. There are lots of shared character design elements among them – the armour and cloak combination, the multiple weapons and shield all ready to go, the smattering of decorations showing their allegiance.
As an aside, before I get into the figures, I’m just going to mention that I’m using my own names and descriptions for them. As much as I like Games Workshop’s setting, I’m one of those people who really like writing their own settings, characters and stories. As part of this, these four warriors will form the leaders of my Chosen Warriors, set to accompany the Lord into battle (seeing as he fights on foot). Additionally, as the greatest warriors among them, they are sent off to do specific tasks for their leader, ideally setting them up for small skirmish games.
First up we have a Warrior with shield and axe, ready to attack but in a relatively guarded pose. This is “The Dour”, an old warrior in a profession where that is a rarity. He’s basically Rhazgra’s main advisor/strong man, ready to offer the blunt opinion when required but then following her orders to the letter.
He’s also just really fun to paint, a relatively open pose with lots of finer details to add to. As the first figure painted, this was where I decided on the colours I would be using. Going for Valejo’s Royal Purple for the cloak really helps to make them look regal. I also used the classic Leadbelcher for the armour but after a quick look, a layer of black contrast over the top made it look the classic black armour that the Chaos Warriors are known for. On most, I decided to use mostly brass colours rather gold, helping to make them look less “fancy” than any Templars I am doing. The exception was the leader and mage, the gold marking them out as a little more important.
Next, with a weapon in each hand and animal pelt over the shoulder we have Arkfel the Slayer. With a pose like that, leaving himself entirely open and daring his enemy on, he seems like a real charming bastard of a warrior. Combine that with the pelt over his shoulder, I worked up the idea of the charming asshole who knows he has the skills to backup his boasting. Plus, if I’m doing the writing, a perfect partner to the mage, standing there to taunt attackers away from his beloved.
This guy is really similar pose to the Slambo figure from the olden days and I kind of love it. It was really fun working on him, especially with the scales over his shoulder. I originally started off with the colours reversed, only swapping to a more realistic look once I double checked some reference.
Rhazgra the Seneschal is of course the leader of this warband, standing in a dynamic pose to command her warriors forward. Her gear is more ornate than her fellows, she goes to battle without her helmet and that sneer of command. In her role as Seneschal, she is responsible for making sure her Lord’s affairs are in order, as well as enforcing his commands and protecting him with the help of the Chosen. At other times, she will go and do important tasks and quests herself. As for her (and her sister’s) origins, they are shrouded in mystery. Some say she is the daughter of a northern tribal chief, others say she ran away from the Templars as a teenage trainee to protect her sister. Either way, she’s a formidable warrior and great leader of her force.
As the figure that attracted to me this band, I was very careful to try and get her done just right. As well as the ornate details, the face is really well sculpted. Normally, my faces are apply base colour, wash, finish, barely even bothering to do the eyebrows. With Rhazgra, I used the Reikland fleshshade but then went back, adding eyebrows, highlights for the nose and cheek bones as well as a touch of gold though the piercing on her eyebrow. The markings on the side of her head were an attempt at tattoos which I think have the right effect. I also spent a lot of time on the hair, working from the black basecoat to the strip of white. In sort of the opposite way, I started off the wolf pelt with a very light grey, working my way down until the layer of black contrast paint over the top portions. Overall, I’m really happy with this model, one of the ones I’m most proud of.
And then we get to the mage.
So at first I originally painted her up using the original head. This sculpt was my least favourite in the set. I understand the visual of the cursed mage with the horns and hairless, and it makes sense for Warhammer. But in my head, this wasn’t the look I was wanting for the warband. These are supposed to be well trained and skilled warriors, not yet corrupted fully. The other issues was that the head lacks a lot of the details I’d usually rely on when painting – it’s not got much topological features to let the wash run into. I tried my best with the black and gold bands but it just looks so agressively… eh.
After a weekend of staring at the model, I decided enough is enough and went looking for an alternative head. I had, a while ago, purchased some alternative Stormcast heads (which are now being used in my Templar forces which I’ll be showing off soon) so I could get away from the “nope, we’re totally not space marines” look. Those heads, waiting for me to finish the box of Paladins I got for cheap from the local corner shop back up in Edinburgh for a tiny price, have been in my bits tray for a while. Pulling them out, I found one which was ideal, matching the look of Rhazgra while still looking a little magical. The only problem was that all the detail was on the wrong side of the head, forcing a slight change in pose.
Removing the head without damaging the paintwork was one of those butt clenching moments of hobby, trying very hard to scrape as little away as possible. Luckily I made a clean cut, cleaned up the resin part and then re-assembled the head into the slot, undercoating it via brush.
And now, here she is finished – Rhalar. With the new head, she looks like a true battle mage, just as likely to kick your ass with her fists than she is with magic. This better suits the mental image of her, working as her sister’s magical aid right next to her in battle. Her origins are as mysterious as her Sister’s and she shows promise of an even greater level of magic than she has already shown.
I’m really happy with the headswap, elevating this figure from okay to something I’m really happy with. I like how similar this model is in terms of gear to the actual warriors (such as the armour, cloak and the fur around her neck) while still having plenty of pieces that are different enough to make her stand out. The flames were especially fun to paint – I used the Hexwraith technical paint over a white basecoat and it worked out exactly as planned. I also managed to drip a little bit into the scars on her face, just to show the magic beginning to seep out.
Overall, this Underworlds unit was a fantastic way into painting more fantasy figures. I really recommend anyone interested in trying out a new Warhammer army take a look at these figures – they have some really nice details and it isn’t a huge amount of models to paint up. I’m also pretty happy with how the group has turned out, with a paint scheme that is relatively simple but looks awesome.
Next stage with these guys? Well I have 10 warriors, 5 knights and a lord on angry crocodile to finish off in a similar way to this warband. Beyond them, there are a few more less armoured chaos fighters to paint before I can move onto the big parts of the force – my Lord and his Patron.
Only a little terrified at the prospect of those two.