domenica 15 gennaio 2017

Berengar Took - Mithril Hobbit Scout on Pony (M60)

It's funny how you start painting a miniature with no idea or inspiration, and you end up with a piece that's not only above your average, but also developed in your hands, way beyond your original intention, and actually came to represent a character with an appealing background story.

That's what happened with Mithril Hobbit Scout on Pony (M60), which I started painting in October 2016, and finished in the last days of the year. During its painting I put it down and picked it up again a number of times, choosing to focus some days on other miniatures that were, at the time, more interesting.

The only ideas I had, when I started, was that the hobbit should have dark brown hair and a green cloak. In the end it had a green cloak, indeed. The hair somehow started with a light brown and came up almost blonde.

A blonde hobbit? Why not? Before repainting my mistake, I did some research, and came up with a quote.
Before the crossing of the mountains the Hobbits had already become divided into three somewhat different breeds: Harfoots, Stoors, and Fallohides. The Harfoots were browner of skin, smaller, and shorter, and they were beardless and bootless; their hands and feet were neat and nimble; and they preferred highlands and hillsides. The Stoors were broader, heavier in build; their feet and hands were larger, and they preferred flat lands and riversides. The Fallohides were fairer of skin and also of hair, and they were taller and slimmer than the others; they were lovers of trees and of woodlands.
Well, Mithril said it's a scout, so... Fallohide it is. Fair-skinned and fair-haired, our hobbit needs a name now.
In some old families, especially those of Fallohide origin such as the Tooks and the Bolgers, it was, however, the custom to give high-sounding first-names. Since most of these seem to have been drawn from legends of the past, of Men as well as of Hobbits, and many while now meaningless to Hobbits closely resembled the names of Men in the Vale of Anduin, or in Dale, or in the Mark, I have turned them into those old names, largely of Frankish and Gothic origin, that are still used by us or are met in our histories. I have thus at any rate preserved the often comic contrast between the first-names and surnames, of which the Hobbits themselves were well aware.
RotK, Appendix F
Took. Everything seems to fall into place, now! I think I'll call him Berengar, just because I'm a big fan of Berengar I of Friuli, king of Italy (888-924) and son of Eberhard the Saint, one of the closest advisors to emperor Louis the Pious.

Berengar Took. The Scout. Or, even better, the Adventurer!
[...] certainly there was still something not entirely hobbit-like about them, - and once in a while members of the Took-clan would go and have adventures. They discreetly disappeared, and the family hushed it up; but the fact remained that the Tooks were not as respectable as the Bagginses, though they were undoubtedly richer.
I can almost hear Berengar's mum, complaining that all the family loved trees and woodlands, but it was certainly not normal for one of them to go and visit the great forests beyond the Brandywine! 
"Where did all that talk of elves and dragons, and magic rings and shining swords came from?" wondered Berengar's mother.
"I tell you where it came from" muttered his Uncle, Ludovic, while sucking on his pipe "from that ol' Wizard that comes every now and then. He looks all jolly and friendly, but he's up to no good, mark my words!"
"The Wizard?!?" gasped the woman.
Not the fellow who used to tell such wonderful tales at parties, about dragons and goblins and giants and the rescue of princesses and the unexpected luck of widows' sons? [...] Not the Gandalf who was responsible for so many quiet lads and lasses going off into the Blue for mad adventures. Anything from climbing trees to visiting Elves - or sailing in ships, sailing to other shores! 
Yep, that one.

That Gandalf better stay away from my children!
Anyway. The miniature is lovely, really. One of the best I've seen so far from Mr. Tubb. The date on the base is 1988 and the sculpt belongs to the group "Gandalf and the Shire-folk".

What I really like about this miniature is that it manages to be full of realistic detail and, at the same time, have something magical and poetic.

The drapery of the cloak is just perfect. And the way the hobbit looks around - perhaps scanning the landscape, perhaps marvelling at it - is just glorious. Also the pony is finely sculpted, with the right proportions and a strolling pose matching the relaxed position of the rider. 

The baggage is very well done, and so is the short sword hanging from the side.

And did I mention the drapery of the cloak, yet? No, this is probably one of my favourite Mithril miniatures so far. Ride, Berengar, follow the Road to wherever it goes!
           Farewell we call to hearth and hall!
           Though wind may blow and rain may fall,
           We must away ere break of day
           Far over wood and mountain tall.

           To Rivendell, where Elves yet dwell
           In glades beneath the misty fell,
           Through moor and waste we ride in haste,
           And whither then we cannot tell.

           With foes ahead, behind us dread,
           Beneath the sky shall be our bed,
           Until at last our toil be passed,
           Our journey done, our errand sped.

           We must away! We must away!
           We ride before the break of day!

venerdì 6 gennaio 2017

Lamshâr - Citadel Silvan Elf ME31 (1985)

I got on eBay this cool Jess Goodwin sculpt from 1985, which was sold by Citadel as Silvan Elf ME31. Interestingly, the same figure was later included in the 1989 Citadel Late Summer Catalogue (item 074213/2) as Wood Elf Champion. I bought it without a clear idea of what to do with it and then, on a whim, last month I decided to paint like one of the main NPCs, and by far one of the best villains, of my WFRP campaign.
The miniature was missing the original shield and I had to make do with a different one - full shield, to which I added a hole with a hot screw, and by sheer luck it fit perfectly.

So I give you Lamshâr, Dark Elf Assassin and Champion of Slaanesh.

The PCs met Lamshâr for the first time in Karak Azûl, a Dwarfish hold at that time overrun by Goblinoids. Driven by a dream to explore the Lower Depths, they discovered the Goblins were under the rule of a Greater Daemon, Urmarcht. He, in turn, had been appointed by the Dark Powers to recover the Melody of the Gates, a piece of Slann music that could be used to open or close portals on the Warp. Said Melody (or a part of it, but that was not known to the PCs yet) was in the possession of a Sea Elf, Gelmir of Lothern, currently lodging in the great city of Quezzhar on the coast of Lustria. And Urmarcht, having a Goblinoid kingdom to rule, appointed in turn his right-hand man, the Dark Elf Assassin Lamshâr.

Now, Lamshâr was not a standard Dark Elf: for one, he was really dark - a Gift of Slaanesh, which made his skin as smooth and dark as ebony. Graced with unnatural charm and grace, he had a signature mocking smile which made women faint from lust and men seeth from offence. And indeed that's what happened, with the Wood Elf Knight Errant girl falling almost immediately for him, and the Dwarf Judicial Champion vowing to heave his head with his axe. He got a scar in the attempt, and she got a night of unspeakable pleasures, while the other PCs were asleep and he broke into her room at a local inn.

But I am hasting too much - off sets Lamshâr from Karak Azûl to Barak Varr, where he boards a ship directed to Ulthuan first and Quezzhar later. The PCs follow as they can, but he is always a step ahead of them. That includes finding Gelmir of Lothern almost dead and deprived of the papers where he recorded the Melody. In Lustria, they almost catch up with Lamshâr - almost meaning getting a scar or a night of decadent lovemaking. But by sunrise the Assassin has already boarded a ship back to the Old World.

The PCs try again to follow, on the Grey Wave, Gelmir's ship. They are slower than other Elvish frigates, but they can cut the stopover in Ulthuan and head directly to Barak Varr, in the hope that they can set a trap for Lamshâr there. But he's smarter than them, as usual, and avoids it, so he can reach Karak Azûl days ahead of them. Always a step ahead, but never really taking action against them. It's as if he enjoyed toying with them, rather than eliminating their threat once and for all. Or is he?

It is in Karak Azûl that the PCs finally confronted the Daemon Urmarcht, now in possession of the Melody, and uncovered his plan to enlarge the Southern Gate of Chaos to absorb its energy and become a Prince of Chaos, with the blessing of the Ruinous Powers. And they stopped it - with the help of Kar Knuurg, the legendary War Axe of the Kings of Karak Azûl, they fell the monster after an epic battle in the Lower Depths.

 It was then that Lamshâr, suspiciously absent until that time, reappeared. Just as Urmarcht was uttering a final curse on the PCs, the Assassin pierced his neck with a blade.

"I must thank you" he bowed mockingly to the PCs "I would have never achieved that by myself. With your help, though... but let me show my gratitude by allowing you to witness my own rise as a Prince of Chaos. Please, follow me, if you can!"

With that the Dark Elf started to run and jumped into a portal, with the PCs following suit. They could only look, while the Assassin, faster than them, played with his flute the Melody and enlarged the titanic vortex suspended in the stormy sky, over a living wasteland of limbs, tentacles and screaming mouths: the Southern Gate of Chaos. As the Eye in the Sky expanded, Lamshâr was pulled into it by an invisible force. And, moments after disappearing in the maelstrom of impossible colours, something started coming out of the Gate.

A colossal monster, whose head was half skull and half Lamshâr, barbed with six convoluted horns, slowly emerged from the Hole, as if it was climbing out from a blasphemous womb. Triumphant, he screamed with a thousand voices his victory. But just then, Gelmir started playing with his harp the same Melody - only backwards.

The Gate started to recede, slowly but steadily, and the Beast screamed again, but this time with fear and frustration. The Gate shrunk, cutting off his body in half. Iridescent blood, or whatever it was, fell on the living plain which fed itself off the ichor. With a fearsome groan, the Chaos Spawn that was to be a Prince of Chaos died, and its gigantic body sank into the teeming ground, gnarled and gnawed by invisible teeth. The Melody was over, at least the bit which Gelmir knew. The Gate was not closed, but it has receded to the same size as before. It was time to go, before the portal closed itself.

That was the end of Lamshâr, Dark Elf Assassin, Champion of Slaanesh and would-be Prince of Chaos.

Lamshâr's main weapons were a whip and a repeating crossbow - alas, difficult to find in miniatures, except heavily armoured Dark Elves. But a bow and a long sword will do, along with a nice shield painted with the wheel of Chaos.