+ inload: Grave Stalker Legionary +

+ Grave Stalker Legionary +

+ The Bolter & Chainsword forum has a group that is developing an alternative universe Horus Heresy-style rebellion, called the Icarion Insurrection. The hobbyists are very enthusiastic and have come up with a lot of fun material for it; ranging from an entirely new range of Space Marine Legions to galactic maps and new campaigns. I was asked if I'd like to build a marine for the project, and thought it sounded like fun. +

+ This is the first of them, a Legionary from the Grave Stalkers Legion, by a poster called Grifftofer. Below is the brief summary blurb from the project:

+ The Grave Stalkers +

Numeration: The XVth LegionPrimogenitor: K'awil PakalCognomen (Prior): NoneAllegiance: Traitoris Perdita Appearing as wraiths of Old Night, this small legion of Pariahs use fear as their chosen weapon. Numbering the smallest of all legions due to unstable gene-seed, the Grave Stalkers make up for their lack of numbers by destroying the enemy's morale long before the battle is joined. Atrocities cling to the Grave Stalkers as they prosecute compliance as both soldier and civilian soon feel the knives of the XVth skinning them as a warning to others. At the head of this isolated army stoops K'awil the Soulless. Spurned by the Imperium due to the unnatural aura possessed by the Primarch and his sons, K'awil fought from the shadow of the grave before he was persuaded by Icarion to side with the Stormlord. 

+ That's just a taster. The broader project has lots (really, lots) of written material (if I'm honest, an intimidating amount!) but I hope I've done justice to the concept and produced something the team – and Grifftofer – likes. +

+ Theoretical +

+ While the description suggested elements of the Night Lords and Alpha Legion to me, I was keen to make sure that the model wasn't simply a mishmash of the more familiar canonical Legions – I felt that would be selling the project short; so I cast my metaphorical net a little wider. When thinking about a figure like this, I tend to look for the iconic elements – if it were distilled down to a phrase, what would the Grave Stalkers be? +

+ At root, the Legion felt like it lived hand-to-mouth. They are few. The background suggests that their allies fear them as much as their enemies, and that they prefer to fight guerilla-style to make the most of their low numbers, lurking in the shadows. They have little support from the Mechanicum. They even ruthlessly cull their own Legion in order to ensure the survival of the next generation. To me, this suggested an uncompromising, fatalistic and nihilistic nature. +

+ There were also some hints at pop culture Mesoamerican culture – human sacrifice, trophies and warrior lodges – but I was keen not to overplay this as it's easy to over-egg the pudding and end up with Aztecs in spaaaace. It did, however, get me thinking about Astartes creeping through mist-shrouded jungles, which was a fun train of thought. I intend to bring this influence in a little more with the painting and symbology. +

+ With little resupply from the Mechanicum, I reasoned that the Ghost Stalkers would have to make do with older or non-standard equipment. Generally speaking, I felt that they would favour practicality over ornamentation – it's all very well having bat helms to scare people, but if your very nature is frightening, you can avoid things that might catch on low-hanging vegetation. +

+ Finally – and crucially – these needed to read as 'Space Marines'. It's easy to miss this core part, but first and foremost they have to feel like they fit in the (alternative) 30k universe. Taking them too far from the iconic silhouette would just result in a figure that looked like it had a load of stuff bolted on. +


+ Practical +

+ The result takes some inspiration from pop culture Vietnam – traumatised soldiers doing abominable things – mixed in with a bit of Predator. +

+ Legionary Ahluic Xbalanque of the Grave Stalkers +

+ A sleek but brutal figure. The T-helm was suggested by the source image I was given. I toyed with a bare head (the Grave Stalkers have an unusual phenotype, with white skin and black eyes), but decided this would clash with the Mesoamerican feel. In any case, the T-helm is distinctly dehumanising, and that was at the core of the concept. His boltgun is a relatively clunky local variant (based on the SAW machine guns from countless Hollywood movies), and his only other armament is a blade, held downwards in a classic assassin's grip. + 

A few bones and other trophies dangle from his armour, which is essentially Mark II Crusade Armour with a few modifications. In particular, I chose a backpack with swept-back heat vents, reasoning that it would be better for movement through dense undergrowth and would also channel heat away in a narrower area, helping him remain hidden. +

+ The Grave Stalkers eventually fall to Chaos (Oops; spoilers?) and I wanted to get that across, so he had to look a little more 'evil'. I used a shoulder pad with raised trim and spiked bonding studs. Pleasingly, these look like little pyramids, suggestive of ziggurats and Mesoamerican weaponry. +

+ This final shot shows the dangling trophy, trimmed from a Grey Knight Terminator torso. I dropped it to his waist, where it makes for a rather sinister loincloth! Of final note is the belt buckle, which is an empty hoop. This is the Mayan symbol for zero – a little nod both to the Mesoamerican feel and a subtle hint at their soulless nature. +

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