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CITY SPOTLIGHT: Dekay's Storm-Aelves of Ghur

Double Misfire

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Welcome to City Spotlight! In the first instalment of a (hopefully) regular feature on the blog, highlighting some of the very best Cities of Sigmar forces currently securing the Mortal Realms, we meet Karol Gorniak, aka Dekay of the TGA Forums and his brilliant Storm-Aelves of Ghur.


Joe: Hi Dekay! First off thanks for allowing me to showcase your Storm-Aelves here on the blog, they’re a sight to behold and easily one of the best converted and painted armies I’ve ever seen for AoS. Were they originally planned as a complete force, or did they begin as a few conversions and snowball from there?

Dekay: A funny thing is, the answer is twofold. The first, singular prototype model first saw the light of day back when the Black Ark Corsairs were a brand new kit. Of course, given that we're talking the Old World era, the current lore was not yet planned. I've shown him at Ulthuan.net's chatroom, where I oftenly frequented at that time, and general response was 'nice, but it looks too much like a Dark Elf'.  Deciding against a potentially confusing army design I canned the project.  Then, like 10 years later or so, Age of Sigmar hits and, among other things, the setting becomes infinitely friendler to 'your dudes' approach to army building. So I dug up the old prototype, fixed his spear (as you can't realistically expect a plastic spear to survive 10 years in storage) and started gathering what bits I didn't already have to make more of them. It started with Spireguard, but at that point I knew I'd want a full force.


Joe: Wow, so they've been in your back pocket for years. The Storm-Aelves of Ghur have a backstory as distinct as their look, can you give a quick rundown?

Dekay: That's the greatest thing that the Realms have given us as a setting, in my opinion. Basically, whatever you can think up, it fits, somehow and somewhere. Creative process here was more or less as follows: Scaly skin cloaks look dope, let's theme the entire culture after them. So, they all wear monster hides. They're monster hunters then. Hey, there's a realm known mostly for having monsters in it. What would aelves do there? So I created this story where somewhere in the past, Azyrite force reclaiming the mortal realms in the name of Sigmar walks through a newly discovered Realmgate leading to Ghur. On the other side they find the land of rocky coasts, violent thunderstorms and waves tearing at the cliffs, with sea teeming with great serpents, while the sky is dominated by larger and smaller birds of prey and other birdlike creatures. Whatever lives on the land is fast, alert and able to defend itself. As usually with crucial locations, Azyrites, a mixed race force with sizable aelven contingent and led by relatively low number of Stormcast Eternals, fortify the position near the gate and construct a relay-tower that Azyr typically uses for their Swifthawk couriers. Of course, apart from the monsters, there's also actual enemies on the other side, savage Ghur-tribes of various races, with some already fallen to Chaos.

The realms have their influence on those who live there, and as the wars go on, Azyrites start collecting trophies from what they kill, while continuous fight against the land itself startes reflecting on their psyche. The tower, at this point, is relatively safe. The Realm of Beasts itself doesn't do all that well wit the idea of safe locations, and as ravages of sea serpents, Kharybdae, rocs, griffons and everything else the Realm can throw at them prove unsuccessful, the unnaturally strong thunderstorm wakes the Storm-serpent, possibly a godbeast, possibly just incredibly huge an ancient monster. Where's the distinction really? The battle against it is a truly titanic event, with tower partially in ruins, large parts of contingent dead, and, most importantly: Realmgate covered with tons and tons of rock, as trashing of the serpent driven of by the sacrifice of the last surviving Stormcasts reshapes the landscape itself.

What is left, is left without guidance, support or way home. So they adapt. They rebuild their fortress the best their can, reforge remnants of fallen stormcasts into new weapons and armour, bend the beasts they deem noble enough to their will and do what their do best at this point: survive. Generation pass and the story of the gate and the serpent slowly turns into a legend. They know they're sent and tested by the god of thunder. They know of his messengers, and that one day they will be called to fight for him again. And until then, they must prove themselves worthy in fight against all the monsters that surround their home. And one day, as Sigmar's conquests progress, another, route, by land, is found to their region. Everyone is genuinely surprised that any of the lost army still survive and a bit concerned of how they changed, but they seem as faithful as they ever were.


Joe: With Battletome: Cities of Sigmar having been announced, do you have plans to advance the Storm Aelves backstory and devise a Free City of your own for them to call home?

Dekay: That's the exact idea! Their renewed contact with the rest of Sigmar's domain finally gives them support, and even before that they manage to ally themselves with several of the local human tribes equally hostile towards the chaos followers. So What was first just a fortress, at the point of restoring the contact with the wider world is already surrounded by tent-city, actively trading with the neighbouring tribes and with culture at least a bit uplifted by the influence of the former Azyrites. And after the communication is restored, come trade goods, better weapons and armour (with blackpowder weapons never gaining much traction due to 'constant rain and wind' nature of the place not mixing well with them, but nontheless, they come into some use), and also, a duardin contingent tasked with, well, digging their way back to the lost Realmgate.

Joe: I was going to ask if you had any Storm-Duardin in the pipeline... What units are you planning on expanding the force with when the new book is released?

Dekay: First stage will be, sadly, damage control. Many of the finished units were of the wrong side of the culling of old kits. Luckily, and that's the greatest advantage of fully kitbashed army, they basically counted-as other units anyway, so in some cases it's not a problem. Former Swordmasters are now Executioners, former Reavers either Dark Riders (preferable if only they end up in the Cities battletome) or the Outriders, and so on. However, as the Spireguard are probably gone, I'll have to do some rearming to make them into Dreadspears. Griffons will get some cool lightning effects around them to explain their newly gained breath-weapons as Wardens turn into Dreadlords. Or maybe one will even become a sorceress, who knows until the rules are available. Shame about the Skycutters if they're really gone, but, honestly, It was this one unit I liked the least and only got them in the army because they were the only thing making Swifthawk units remotely dangerous.

However! As soon as I'm done with this, I start adding humans. Some basic infantry, either with their traditional more primitive weapons or with guns (I'd make those seem way more advanced than the rest of equipment so they were immediately recognisable as imported), and apart from that, Demigryphs. Because how can I not have more monsters in this force? I also have some plans for a scratchbuilt Hurricanum that really lives up to its name. After this is done, because, lets' be honest, monsters are cool, I'd probably add some Drakespawn and such. I don't as of now, have a precise plans for any duardin units but I'm sure it will come in time (one possibility is turning those Skycutters into properly themed Gunhaulers, but well, that's an option only if I can use all those units in Tempest's Eye. Which I'd very much like to do because despite having my own city, the allegiance is called Tempest's Eye. how much more fitting could it be?)


Joe: I certainly can't think of a more suitable allegiance than Tempest's Eye. Skycutters recrewed as Gunhaulers would look fantastic. What models do you plan on using as a base for the humans, standard Freeguild stuff or something more "full on Ghur" like Bloodreavers?

Dekay: Not the original Freeguild, that I'm certain. Too much potential wasted. There are two ways I can do this and until i try some test models I can't be certain which one wins out. The first way - go the more viking-ish route with something based on LotR Rohirrim. It's affordable, it's GW, but it's in the wrong scale and I'm uncertain if even head and hand transplants would make them not stand out. Second way is what I'd call an unholy amalgamation route. Basically, what can I do if I mash together bits from, like, six different kits that should've never been merged together by a sane person. Sadly, the Age of Sigmar line is extremely light on barbarians wearing actual clothes and I'd like to keep my 'full clothing, gloves and fur' thing that army has going now. (We can be certain that de-chaosified Theddra Skull-scryer will find her way somewhere in there, though.)

Joe: I hadn't even thought of more recent Chaos stuff; it's a shame the Warcry Warbands all wear so little. I think the Warriors of Dale released for the Hobbit are a little bigger than the earlier Lord of the Rings plastics, I'd looked at them for Freeguild myself before deciding I couldn't go without puffy sleeves and feathers. That said, I’m not sure even I can name all the components you’ve used to build the Storm-Aelves. Do you have a favourite unit, hero or monster that you’ve created or are they all your babies?

Dekay: I have to admit, rearming the Spireguard will be a bit emotional. They were the first to come and basically created the army's look, and part of their charm is current equipment overload they have going for them. I'm certain that for every bow and quiver lost, they will be getting extra swords, talismans and packs. So now I'm thinking of all of them as equals. But let's be honest, probably  newly equipped Dreadspears will return to their favoured position after they're done. I also very much like the griffons and hope that new battletome will give me some reason to use all 3 at once.
(And I do have to look at the Warriors of Dale, I completely forgot about the Hobbit line and they seem to have potential...)


Joe: The Lake Town Militia are also a bit tasty, resin not plastic though. You could always keep the bows on the Spireguard command group and use them as the foundation of a new unit of Darkshards... I love how you’ve saved your three griffons from the “monster factory” effect by subtly reposing them, was this a pain to achieve or did it go smoothly?

Dekay: I was a bit worried about the one that had its head replaced with one from Skycutter hawk (they're more or less identical in both scale and design but the process was pretty demanding), but the claws and the wings? That was pretty simple. I mean, simple for my standards, however boastful that may sound. Kitbashing was one of my favourite of this hobby for years now, and compared to, for instance, some of my vehicles from 40k it all counts as simple. I never liked metal models, and found finecast to be difficult to work with, and when I was starting out with the hobby, the choice in plastics was extremely limited to what it is now. So if you wanted it in plastic, you needed to learn to use extremely limited pool of resources...

Notice the rider's sculpted chainmail, matching the rest of the
force - the level of attention to detail on display is phenomenal

Joe: Ha! The two heads from the two headed option in the Freeguild griffon kit are weirdly about the right scale for Swifthawk griffons should you ever choose to convert a fourth... I'm in love with your Shadow Warriors, what parts did you use to convert them, the legs are from Dark Eldar Scourges, right?

Dekay: You chose probably the most complex one to explain... So. yes, Dark Eldar Scourge legs (with most plating painted as leather armour), the torso is from a Doomfire Warlock, with lower half cut off from the riders' legs. Arms are combination of glade guard and black ark corsairs. Old High Elf archer quivers, Dark Rider Swords or Glade Guard daggers to that. Heads are from Glade Guard as well. their 'skirts', scale and fur cloaks and that little clothing they wear around their chest are all green stuff work. I actually prepared press moulds for both scales and fur to make the process easier. Oh, when I spoke earlier about wanting to have clothed barbarians: Shadow Warriors are exempt. They're the jumpy ranger-scout types, with actual claws visible on their leader's feet. They're the weird ones, they deserve their bare chests.


Joe: Blah, sorry for picking the most complicated ones! I think that just about covers it, thanks again for being such a great first City Spotlight. Before you go, if you could add any new unit, hero or monster to Age of Sigmar, what would it be?

Dekay: However boring it may sound: human melee cavalry on horses. I mean, fantasy world without a classic knight will always seem incomplete to me, and possibility of theming it to various forces would be basically endless.

Joe: Ha! We'll always have Pistoliers.

Dekay: Well, it's something. Or, with mercenary rules, we can make them vampires!


If you want to see more of Dekay's incredible work, both on his Storm-Aelves and other Age of Sigmar and Warhammer 40,000 projects, then head on over to his Instagram and TGA hobby thread:


If you've got a Cities of Sigmar force that you'd like to show off and chat about, then please contact me, I'd love to feature you on City Spotlight.

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