The backstory of Mordini's Doomed Legion has a mythic quality.
The Duke of Lumbrusco hired the mercenary captain Ennio Mordini to help him in the many wars that disquieted Tilea. But even as Mordini's victories enlarged the Duke's territory, they seemed to weaken his authority by making him dependent on the loyalty of a low-born condottiere. Finally, the Duke struck a secret bargain with the rival city-state of Organza: The Duke would lure Mordini into a fatal ambush, and, in exchange, the soldiers of Organza would ensure the land was finally rid of this dangerous freebooter. The plan worked and Mordini was slaughtered with his men in a narrow pass of the Apucini Mountains. Mordini died cursing his erstwhile employer and swearing vengeance. Five years later, a legion of skeletal warriors issued from the mountains and burned Lumbrusco to the ground. Mordini had his revenge.
This story fits nicely into Folklore Motif E232.1 as catalogued by the American scholar Stith Thompson in The Motif-Index of Folk-Literature: "Return from dead to slay own murderer." The idea that the departed can seek vengeance on the living appears everywhere in mythology, from Japanese onryō to the ghost of Hamlet's father. It's a gripping concept: justice is possible even in an unjust world, but this justice can only take the form of a ghastly and brutal retribution.
Last week, I showed off the command section of the Nightmare Legion. Let's take a closer look at the four sculpts that form the rank-and-file.
These four skeleton troopers are classic examples of Citadel's work in the mid-1980's. During this period they pumped out hundreds and hundreds of new models with a tiny studio staff. I imagine there was a lot of coffee, loud music and cigarette smoke involved. Another key to this break-neck productivity was Citadel's habit of re-using its own designs with small variations in detail: switching heads, changing weapons and repositioning limbs. And so these figures are essentially the same miniature but with different headgear and pole-arms.
Because I'm a nostalgia junky, I decided to paint these guys to look like the models on the boxed set, complete with nasty old plastic shields.
Part of my fondness for the Nightmare Legion arises from the fact that, although they're skeletons, they're not just mindless automatons. Mordini and his men have agency: without any help from a meddling necromancer they raised themselves from the dead and established an undead city state on the ruins of Lambrusco.
The grinning expressions on these skeletons clearly evoke medieval art, especially "the dance of death" or "death triumphant." For example, below is the fresco portraying the triumph of death in the Clusone Oratorio in Northern Italy (1485). Like Mordini, death has vanquished the worldly powers and set himself up as a dark monarch with his own court and Crown. This fresco would have been painted in the long wake of the second pandemic of the Black Death -- a time when death had a lot to smile about.
Talking about plagues is too topical for my brand, so I will leave you with a couple pictures of the regiment fully assembled.
Thanks for coming by! I hope you are all safe and well, my friends!