Calvus Lucio Balthazar Sorcerer Lord of the Flawless Host
Slayer Sword Challenge 2008, completed March 2008
The Slayer Sword Challenge was an informal contest between the previous year's [U.S.] best-of-show winners at Games Workshop's Golden Demon painting contest. The rules were fairly straightforward; each participant would use the same plastic kit to create an assigned character. You could convert or fabricate as much or little as you liked, but you could only use parts from that kit and raw materials like sculpting putty, plasticard, brass rod, etc. - no pieces from other models. The character description I received was as follows:
Lord Balthazar, the Soul TakerDevoted follower of Slaanesh and accomplished sorcerer, Balthazar utilizes his dark gift to sway the tides of battle for his Chapter, the Flawless Host. The towering figure brandishes the finely crafted and elegant force halberd Blissgiver, a terrifying Daemon weapon with a shaft fashioned from the singing spear of a fallen Farseer. Balthazar takes cruel pleasure in facilitating the demise of the Eldar race. He proudly displays spirit stones plucked from his favored prey about his armor, and is comforted by the muted cries of the thrice-damned souls trapped therein.
I feel very fortunate to have been able to participate in this project, even more so to have received a project outline that spoke to me so directly and allowed me to use so many ideas I've had on my mental back burner. I plan most of my projects with a bit of research on the subject, followed by an initial brainstorm of ideas that might work on the model(s), and then refine that list as I mull things over and discuss my intentions and progress with fellow painters. That last step is a comparatively recent addition to my process, but one I highly recommend.
There isn't much written about the Flawless Host in the Chaos Space Marines codex, just "Extreme combat drug usage; Emperor's Children gene-seed markers". Add that to the description I was given, and I have a chaos sorcerer of Slaanesh with a corrupted xenos force halberd who uses a lot of combat drugs and makes trophies from Eldar. In addition to these almost mandatory points, I tried to add a few librarian- and apothecary-themed components as they would be the earliest versions of chaos sorcerers and the combat drug suppliers, respectively.
You can see from the pre-paint photos that a significant portion of my miniature is converted; the most fundamental of which is a slightly scaled-up body, primarily achieved by adding a little length and bulk to the thighs. Half of this change was to make him taller than a standard terminator, but the other big reason is that I've always thought the terminator thighs are too short and skinny for the rest of the model - surely Astartes do leg presses in the grim darkness of the far future.
I really enjoyed the idea of taking spirit stones from defeated xenos, and I decided to continue the Eldar-as-trophies theme throughout the model. I constructed a simple wraithbone platform for his base, complete with incised seer rune and Il-Kaithe pillar-icon. Inspired by the various incarnations of Mengil Manhide's Manslayers - a dark elf Fantasy Battle unit that wears cloaks made from their victims' skins - I added the tattered hide of an unfortunate Eldar to the back of my terminator. Eldar are quite small compared to terminator armor, so one skin doesn't cover much of his back, but I think it conveys rather well the level of Balthazar's malice.
I knew I'd want to use the kit's bare head for this model because I fervently believe a visible face adds more to a miniature than any helmet. But I also [correctly] suspected everyone in the challenge would do the same, so I sculpted hair to distinguish him from the stock bald head. Credit for the final Gary-Oldman-in-the-Fifth-Element hairstyle goes to several fellow painters with whom I was brainstorming.
At the time of this conversion, no self-respecting Slaaneshi sorcerer left his battlebarge without the ubiquitous psychic power: Lash of Submission. This gave me an excuse to use another long-shelved idea: a lashing tongue-whip built into the armor of a gauntlet. I sculpted the vambrace to look like the face of a steed of Slaanesh, and the lash-tongue itself is a piece of brass wire with a bit of putty at each end to enhance the shape.
The model's force halberd allowed me to utilize another long-held ideas - a weapon-ized Slaaneshi symbol, and I complemented the idea by carving blades in the shape of the Flawless Host's double-crescent symbol for the butt as well. I cut the basic pattern for these blades from a piece of gray ABS plastic sheet. I prefer this material for free-standing parts like weapons (and the icon above this head, and the Il-Kaithe symbol on his base) because it is a bit harder than standard white styrene plasticard, making it more durable for gaming models and much easier to "sharpen" into blade shapes. The haft of Balthazar's force halberd was made from the looted remains of a farseer's staff, so I patterned the weapon off the dire avenger exarch's pole arm (scaled up to terminator size) and sculpted grips from more flayed Eldar skin.
The two-tone paint scheme of the Flawless Host could be considered striking in an evil-Easter-egg sort of way, but this model is a Chaos Sorcerer Lord, and I felt strongly that he should have some (read: lots of) additional details. So I kept the standard colors and placement of the scheme and began embellishing the armor with the Flawless Host's squiggly-tentacle-flame motif, building them into the armor trim. As an homage to their parent legion, I snuck a tiny Emperor's Children symbol onto his left elbow.
As this is a very Slaaneshi model, I tried to work in the sacred number as much as possible. There are six squiggles each on the thigh, shin, calf, and right gauntlet. There are six vials of combat drugs on his belt, six large rivets on his carapace, six ridges on the upper rim of his shoulder pad, six spirit stones on his necklace, and six more gems hung around his person. The list goes on, but you get the idea.
All in all, this project was extremely enjoyable, not least because of the collaboration with fellow participant and "opponent" Todd Swanson. Over the last several years I've come to really enjoy sharing hobby ideas with fellow painters, and my only regret in the Slayer Sword Challenge is not reaching out to include Doug Jones and Natalya Melnik in our discussions. Next time! I'll also confess to taking a bit of inspiration from Vincent Hudon's Slaaneshi terminators, which you can see here - and I now understand what he meant about these colors being inexplicably hard to photograph well.