Thursday, January 25, 2018

Undead Cavalry for Vengeance of the Lichemaster part 2

The skeletal horseman produced by Citadel in 1986 are badass miniatures. As my final installment of my tour through The Vengeance of the Lichemaster, here are the final five Undead Cavalry that I painted for the army of the Lichemaster himself, Heinrich Kemler (the first five death riders are here).

Dead dudes riding horses is a an old and scary image in European folklore. For example, Germany, Scandinavia and Britain have all given us variations on the legend of the "Wild Hunt", a collection of ghostly horseman that may be led by the Devil, a dead king or a god like Odin. A spectral hunt like this is mentioned as an ill-omen in medieval English manuscript, the Peterborough Chronicle (1122-1154):
...several persons [in 1127] saw and heard many huntsmen hunting. The hunters were swarthy, and huge, and ugly; and their hounds were all black, and wide-eyed, and ugly. And they rode on black horses, and black he-goats. This was seen in the very deer-park in the town of Peterborough, and in all the woods from the same town as far as Stamford. (Laud Misc. 636, Bodleian)
Other ghost riders include Celtic headless horsemen, the Dutch Bokkenrijder, and fairy riders like the Green Knight. But I think the well-spring for the image of a sinister skeleton riding a horse is the Bible. To be more specific, it's the Book of Revelation, where John of Patmos describes Death incarnate as one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse:  
And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see. 
And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth. (Revelation 6:7-8, KJV)
This brief description gave way to a host of medieval and renaissance art imagining Death as a skeletal rider. Here are three choice examples:

From left to right we have details from Book of Hours, Yates Thompson 6 MS, Naples, 1477; Book of Hours, Comites Latentes 54 MS, Florence, 1470-1480; and The Apocalypse Tapestry, Paris, 1377–1382.

Deathly riders passed from folklore and art, and into the world of modern fantasy literature with such works as Tolkien's Lord of the Rings (1954). There we get two different flavours of undead cavalry. On the one hand, you have the iconic Black Riders slouching and hooded on their evil steeds:
Round the corner came a black horse, no hobbit-pony but a full-sized horse; and on it sat a large man, who seemed to crouch in the saddle, wrapped in a great black cloak and hood, so that only his boots in the high stirrups showed below; his face was shadowed and invisible. (The Fellowship of the Ring, Book I, Chapter 3)
And on the other hand, you have the Dead Men of Dunharrow: this is the ghostly host of ancient oathbreakers that Aragorn summons to his aid for the War of the Last Alliance. Tolkien is too good a writer to give us too much of a description of these ghosts, instead leaving them to the reader's imagination. All we really get is Legolas's statement as he emerges from the tombs beneath the White Mountains:
'The Dead are following,’ said Legolas. ‘I see shapes of Men and of horses, and pale banners like shreds of cloud, and spears like winter-thickets on a misty night. The Dead are following.’ (The Return of the King, Book V, Chapter 2)
It seems to me that both the Dead Men of Dunharrow and the Black Riders owe a lot to the Wild Hunt. With respect to the Dead Men of Dunharrow, the resemblances include the fact that the Wild Hunt is sometimes said to be led by a great King, like King Arthur or Fredrick Barbarossa; and in other versions of the story, it is populated by wrongdoers or criminals who are cursed by their crime to ride without rest. 

The connection between the Wild Hunt and the Black Riders is also pretty clear: sinister horsemen who hunt across the wild places of the earth in search of some mysterious game. In fact, the description of the black hunstmen in the Peterborough Chronicle that I cited before seems like an inspiration for the Black Riders (except that the Nazgul don't ride goats). In any case, I think it's interesting that Tolkien seems to have been influenced by the myth of the Wild Hunt, but used it to create two totally different species of deathly horseman.

Well, on to the miniatures!

While I mainly used the Citadel C21 range of Undead Cavalry for the Lichemaster's forces, I also wanted an excuse to paint some of the gorgeous miniatures for Citadel's 1980's Lord of the Rings range. 

Above is the mounted "Dead Man of Dunharrow" (Citadel ME72, sculpted by Bob Naismith, 1985). Although it hard to find precise information about who sculpted Citadel's 1980's Lord of the Rings range, I'm confident in attributing this one to Bob Naismith. First, it looks like a Naismith, and second, the Citadel Journal Spring 86 mentions that Naismith created the Middle Earth cavalry (and, I suspect, sculpted most of the other miniatures in the range too). In any case, this is a fantastic sculpt. I love the slouching rider and the way he seems to lean on his spear like an old man gripping a staff.

Here's the "Black Rider" (Citadel ME64, sculpted by Bob Naismith, 1985). Once again, Naismith (Citadel's "most outrageously Scottish designer") has nailed it. Don't you love the way the dagger is held aloft in an invisible hand?

Next comes the alternate "Black Rider" (Citadel ME64, sculpted by Bob Naismith, 1985). This model has a spectacular sense of speed. I tried to accentuate this galloping sensation by adding in a set of reigns (which I modelled from the thin metallic wire that you find on some bottles of Rioja - as if i needed another excuse to drink more Rioja.) 

The above model goes by two names depending on which advert you examine: "Elfcleaver" or "Serratus the Reaper" (Citadel C21 Undead Cavalry, sculpted by Bob Naismith, 1986). He's another fascinating model - I love the way he leans on one side of the horse, as if his rotting corpus can barely keep itself in the saddle. For reasons that are still not clear to me, I gave his robe a saucy striped pattern.

And finally, we have "Leopold the Exhumed" 
(Citadel C21 Undead Cavalry, sculpted by Bob Naismith, 1987). This model features another one of Naismith's fantastic skeletal horses - this one has ox-like characteristics like a heavy skull and stubby horns.

And here are all 10 models arraigned for battle...

Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Undead Cavalry for Vengeance of the Lichemaster part 1

Three armies face off at the monastery of La Maisontaal in Vengeance of the Lichemaster (1986). We've already looked at the monks of Abbot Bagrian and the Skaven warband of Gnawdoom. The third army and last force belongs to the Lichemaster himself, Heinrich Kemler. In almost every respect, army of this powerful necromancer is identical to the one that he fielded in the Battle of Frugelhofen (which is the climatic battle that ended Terror of the Lichemaster, which precedes Vengeance of the Lichemaster). Kemler's line of battle includes:

There is, however, one important addition to Kemler's roster. It's not a unit or a hero, or even a new magic weapon. It is a spell. As the undead Lichemaster slays the hapless residents of the Frugelhorn Valley, he recuperates the vast magic powers that he once possessed as a living mage. Just in time for the Battle of La Maisontaal, he regains mastery of the spell Summon Undead. But what's more, there is a new modification to this spell. For the first time in 2nd Edition Warhammer Fantasy Battle, Summon Undead can be used to conjure up undead cavalry. This will let Kemler raise some much needed mobility for his army of slow moving zombies.

The Citadel Journal Spring 86, the same magazine that published Vengeance of the Lichemaster and the modification to Summon Undead, also introduced a new line of Undead Cavalry miniatures sculpted by Bob Naismith. HOW CONVENIENT!

Well, this week and next week, let's take a look at some of the miniatures I painted for the Lichemaster's stable of death riders...

Above is "Goreprow" riding on "Bones" (C21 Undead Cavalry, Citadel, sculpted by Bob Naismith, 1986). He's the skeleton featured on the advert for Vengeance of the Lichemaster in the Citadel Spring Journal 86. This is just a great miniature. I love the way his robes seem to trail off into smoke or spectral ectoplasm. You can see that I tried to accentuate this effect with a judicious use of bright green paint.

Next is "Doomsmile" (C21 Undead Cavalry, Citadel, sculpted by Bob Naismith, 1986). When the Lichemaster was handing out scary names to his henchmen, Doomsmile was near the back of the line. Like "Goreprow" he's riding an excellent skeletal horse. At the time, the slender nature of these steeds required some significant technical advances pioneered by Naismith (as detailed in the introduction to the C21 range).

Here's my slightly converted version of "Doomsmile" (C21 Undead Cavalry, Citadel, sculpted by Bob Naismith, 1986) riding on the steed "Lizardskin". For those of you who care about these things, he's bearing a standard that reads "Out of the Tomb".

Above is "Death Dart" (C21 Undead Cavalry, Citadel, sculpted by Bob Naismith, 1986). I love the sense of movement in his horse. He really does seem to be darting forward.

And finally, my favourite is "Deathheart" (C21 Undead Cavalry, Citadel, sculpted by Bob Naismith, 1986). For me this miniature really captures the essential creepiness of this range: the slouching, plodding determination of both horse and rider. I'm happy with the way that the horse's many wounds turned out - I feel like he was well picked over by the ravens before being raised up to bear Deathheart. 

Thanks for looking. Next week we'll finish off Vengeance of the Lichemaster by looking at the last four skeleton cavalry in Kemler's force.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Vengeance of the Lichemaster: the Skaven Warband

Behold the Skaven warband of the Grey Seer Gnawdoom, one of the principle antagonists in the classic Warhammer scenario Vengeance of the Lichemaster. Regular readers will know that I'm methodically (i.e. slowly) profiling all the Citadel miniatures needed to recreate this wonderful battle.

I painted most of these Skaven models years ago in order to populate my copy of Advanced Heroquest. As a result, I'm not sure I love all my work. Even now I'm niggled by the suspicion that I've never really "gotten" how to paint the chaos ratmen. I've bought used Skaven on eBay that were clearly painted in speed mode, with rapid and dramatic drybrushing -- and yet these fast and dirty versions seemed to capture more of the old-timey Skaven essence than my time-consuming and painstaking style. Oh well - sometimes you eat the bear and sometimes the bear eats you.

Well, without further ado, here they are:

"Skreth the Ironclad" (Citadel C47 Skaven, sculpted by Jes Goodwin, 1987)

Above is "Skreth the Ironclad" (C47 Skaven, sculpted by Jes Goodwin, 1987). This is one of my all time favourite Skaven sculpts. I love his chainmail face-mask, and long, jezzail-style rifle.

"Goar Headwrecker" (Citadel C47 Skaven, Jes Goodwin, 1986)

Here we have "Goar Headwrecker" (C47 Skaven, Jes Goodwin, 1986). Even though this is only a rank-and-file model, you can see all of Goodwin's talents on full display: a dynamic and almost geometrical pose, fascinating details and a general sense of ratty menace.

"Goar Headwrecker" (Citadel C47 Skaven, Jes Goodwin, 1986) conversion

This is my simple conversion of "Goar Headwrecker" (C47 Skaven, Jes Goodwin, 1986), substituting a cleaver for the original's spiked mace.

"Ashish the Black" (Citadel C47 Skaven, Jes Goodwin, 1986)

Above is one of the original gutter-runners, "Ashish the Black" (C47 Skaven, Jes Goodwin, 1986). His name is a not-so-veiled reference to the hashishi, the Islamic cult that gave us the word assassin. 

"Carver" (Citadel C47 Skaven, Jes Goodwin, 1986)

Here is "Carver" (C47 Skaven, Jes Goodwin, 1986).

"Nightrunner" (Citadel C47 Skaven, Jes Goodwin, 1986)

Another classic assassin is "Nightrunner" (C47 Skaven, Jes Goodwin, 1986). Again, I love how Goodwin composed these models. Their geometry seems to evoke a swastika or throwing star -- either way, it reflects the nasty and deadly nature of the Skaven.

"Spyker" (Citadel C47 Skaven, Jes Goodwin, 1987)

This is "Spyker" (C47 Skaven, Jes Goodwin, 1987).

"Spyne Blightmaster" Plague Monk (Citadel C47 Skaven, Jes Goodwin, 1986)

Finally, we have the original Plague Monk, "Spyne Blightmaster" (C47 Skaven, Jes Goodwin, 1986). This model is a superb distillation of Goodwin's creative powers. I just love the way the cowl covers his eyes (does he have eyes?), not to mention the strange spines growing from his back. Well, we already know the Skaven have some pretty unsavoury religious practices.

Here's another shot of the whole lot marching out for battle with the Warlord Throt the Unclean at their head. 

Thanks for looking! Next week we'll be turning to the undead cavalry of the Lichemaster Heinrich Kemmler.