Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Free Companies of the Gilded Hand - 9

Aurelian's Aurpards

The Aurpards were founded in the Age of Myth by the first Venithyan merchants that joined their resources to establish the Gilded Hand cartel. They were the only company to include both the red and yellow of the Gilded Hand heraldry on their own shields and were known as the Gilded Guard. At that time, aurpards, pack felids that prowled the gold-rich Glimmerpeak, posed the gratest threat to the Venithyan convoys on the first leg of their land journey to the Mercurial Gate. It became customary for the Gilded Guard to don the striped pelts of the beasts they killed during their journeys and to depict the aurpard on their shields and helm crests, thus earning them a new name among the Venithyan populace. Expert pikemen, they remained the foremost Free Company as the Gilded Hand turned into an alchemist guild. Through the Age of Chaos, the Realmgate Wars and the Season of War, they continued to unflinchingly serve their masters and to protect Venithya. Their current captain, Aurelian, has reintroduced the practice for parties of recruits to kill an aurpard before they can formally join the Company. Having to work together to separate the beast from the pack, corner and skewer it on their pikes, they develop a spirit of camaraderie the like of which is not seen among other Free Companies. Rightly proud of their skills and heritage, the Aurpards have recently been claimed by Lord Captain Rodrik as his personal bodyguard. Ever since, Aurelian has proven to be an excellent second-in-command and many in Venithya are sure he will succeed the hoary veteran at the head of the city armies.

Aurelian's Aurpards are the last human Free Company I'd planned and wanted to be a tribute to the pikemen introduced in the Dogs of War Army Book. There were many pikemen companies, but I've always favoured Leopold's Leopards, in no small part because of the great illustration that featured in their profile page.

On the other side, I found that the original models didn't quite capture the feeling of that illustration, in particular the nobility conveyed by the helms and their crests.

So, my objective was to have models that more closely reembled the fighters in the picture. To achieve that, I had avoided using the armoured Freeguild Guard bodies for my other companies. Once combined with the Empire Knights' arms, helms, shields and pelts, I had exactly what I wanted!

For Aurelian himself I used the last head from the Freeguild General, the one with the helm sculpted as a felid head with a laurel. I also wanted his pike to look slightly different, so I combined the Empire Knight banner bearer arm with the pike from the really old Unded Chariot (think it was a 1992 model!).

The musician and banner bearer required some additional work to give them armoured left arms with weapons, which I made by combining Empire Militia and Knight of the White Wolf arms with spare blades from the Freeguildguard. The banner bearer has a machete-like blade, which was a way to link to Leopold's original model.

As always, I tried to give a tribute to the colour scheme of the original models, hence the white trousers. However, since I kept copper or gold armour for my heroes, the Aurpards were given a dull iron armour. As always, the red and yellow tie the models with the other Free Companies, but they are more prominent on them as the oldest Venithyan Free Company.

For the pelts, since I'm not good enough of a painter to do leopard spots, I went for an easier striped pattern. And I have to say, I'm rather pleased of how they actually turned out!

And with them, my time with Freeguild is over! This project started with the release of Age of Sigmar and the Empire Batallion going on Last Chance to Buy. It feels right that it finishes before the second edition comes out.
But do not be fooled, I'm not done with the Free Companies! There are still non-human Regiments of Renown that I want to replicate!

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Free Companies of the Gilded Hand - 8

Lord Captain Rodrik

Rodrik Harlsjen has never shown any inclination for the subtlety of magic and politics, although he could count a score of ancestors in the inner circle of the Gilded Hand. And yet, he now sits at their inner councils as their foremost military advisor. He rose to prominence at the head of his own Free Company, Rodrik's Valiants, during the final stages of the Season of War. In a series of running skirmishes, the Valiants hunted down the plague-ridden servants of the Horned Rat that had infiltrated the Pen, the shanty town were merchants grots, mercenary orruks, maneaters and other unsavoury but useful types are confined by order of the Gilded Hand. Over the following months, Rodrik's men one by one fell to unknown diseases. But their captain's skills at inspiring a rowdy bunch of militiamen recruited from the populace of inner Venithya did not go unnoticed. In the years to follow, Rodrik was tasked to lead both small and large armies and has secured new trade routes, cleared pockets of Chaos worshippers and repelled marauding orruks more than any other general in the payroll of the Gilded Hand. As the Season of Woe begun, the old veteran was quick to realise that the unquiet dead were the real threat and made sure that all men under his command were ready to fight such an unnatural enemy. It was this foresight, and his unparalleled skill to inspire the soldiery by fighting in the first line, that earned him the title of Lord Captain and his position within the Gilded Hand. As magic itself seems to be dying in Chamon, the alchemists of the Gilded Hand trust that Rodrik will keep their mercenaries as an effective bulwark against any force menacing Venithya.

The inspiration for Lord Captain Rodrik comes from both the cover of the Dogs of War Army Book and the model of Roderigo Delmonte, Captain of the Alcatani Fellowship.

The body of the Freeguild General on foot was already perfect to represent both the model and the illustration. The kit also comes with a nice head with an eye patch. For the arms, I used one with hammer from the old Empire Knights of the White Wolf, while the one with dagger is from the Empire Militia with a hand swap and a dagger from the Freeguild Handgunners. Finally a pelt, again from the Knights of the White Wolf, and a pistol from the Duardin Thunderers completed the base model.

Of course, the pelt is of a wolf, while I wanted to have a lion, and the head is bald, while I needed long flowing hair. That's where the Green Stuff came handy. The hairs were easy. The lion's head required trimming down the long snout of the wolf and then resculpting the details. In the end , the lion looks like one of those you see in Buddhist temples, but that's fine! All kind of animals exist in the Mortal Realms, right?

When it came to paint the model, I kept the dark copper of Roderigo, but turned it into burnished gold. together with the red on the clothing, this ties Rodrik with my other Freeguild Captain, Aldrik Tarsyn. From the illustration, I kept the streak of blonde hair, but turned it white. I reasoned that, together with the beard, this would be a nice hint at the time that has passed for that character. Think of it, that illustration is now twentyone years old and the World-that-Was is no would be strange if the character still looked the same.

Because of the golden armour, painting the lion pelt in natural browns will have created no contrast, so I went for a black and white striped pattern. This also allowed me to differentiate between Rodrik's hair and the lion's mane.

With him, my Free Companies are almost done. There is just one more companies on the painting desk. Stay tuned, as I want to finish them before the new edition hits us!

Saturday, 9 June 2018

Thy Soul to Keep, Part 10

The Night of the Comet

'Why did you come up here, Soulchemist?'
Kalyustar ignored the Skull's wispers and turned his eyes to the night sky. From the top of Deathwatch Hall, he could see the underside of the Sky Dock platform and past it, millions of starts, for once looking bright over the Harrowmark.
'What are you looking for, Soulchemist?'
He did not know, not any more. Ever since he had come to Wörtbad, he had felt a power like none he had experienced before. He had used it, and the more he used it, the more he wanted of it. And yet, he felt as if he was forgetting what he needed that power for.
'You need to put it at the service of something greater, Soulchemist! Let me guide you...'
Movement in the sky seized Kalyustar attention. Two sparks had appeared. One close, and moving slow. The other far more distant, and way faster. The two converging on Wörtbad.
'Can you feel its power? I do. It is coming. And look! Others are drawn to it! Will you be able to fight all of them? Wouldn't it be wise to seek the alliance of a great warrior?'

An'sec and his retinue coalesced around the grim statue in the village main square, a pale female form bathed in their unnatural glow.

The Rotmoons moved through the alleys, their apeish shapes dimly lit by the light pouring from half-closed windows.

Kalyustar shouted down the trap door, sending the Free Companies into a scramble to take defensive positions around Deathwatch Hall.

The wizard leaned over the crenellations, holding the Skull high. As a wave of almost solid fear spread from it, Kalyustar latched onto the soul of the closest creature. It smelled like the sour water of a swamp, and yet he stole it. Down in the streets, the Rotmoon's Troggoth fell to the ground.

As Kalyustar run out of the tower, the Marksmen shot down the boyz that were goading the Troggoth and then, on the heels of one Curassier, they charged Kaitán Da Leeva.

An'sec's riders sprinted forward, schytes hungry for human and ogor souls alike. The lights in the sky were now even closer.

Da Leeva made short work of the men that had charged him, but then Kalyustar turned the Skull towards him. Screaming skulls erupted from the soil around the Warboss, sending a clutch of his boyz in a panicked flight.

Yuri led the surviving Cuirassiers in a running battle against the Hexwraiths. The Marksmen levelled their crossbows at Da Leeva, but the brute shrugged off the bolts. Fernando and his Fencers moved out of the Hall yard, taking defensive positions around Kalyustar.

Behind the orruks, the closest light resolved in the shape of a Kharadron vessel. Endrinriggers and Skywardens floated down from it and opened fire.

With the ogors still pinned down by the Hexwraiths, Da Leeva turned his attention from the Free Companies to the duardin.

Kalyustar turned to see the White Lady glaring at him. He turned the Skull towards the vampire and suddenly skeletal claws grabbed her ankles.

An'sec offered his hand to the Lady. She turned into mist and the two figures advanced.
See, Soulchemist? There is no winning against such power. Think! Think!

The Skywardens and Endrinriggers, having hammered down Da Leeva and his boyz, took position to open fire on the ogors.

The second light, now clearly a comet trailing purple light, came increasingly close. An'sec floated to the Sky Dock platform, ready to meet it. Watched over by a Hexwraith, words of power streamed out of his helm. A party of duardin reconsidered their priorities and powered their way up.

Embroiled in the fight, An'sec lost his grip on the comet. Although he emerged victorious and restored by the souls he had taken, the blazing body came crushing down just were the Marksmen had taken their position.

The White Lady sprung forward, almost beheading Kalyustar with a single strike. Fernando's Fencers countercharged, giving the wizard the chance he needed to run for the protection of Deathwatch Hall.

Kalyustar emerged on the ramparts just in time to see the ogors smashing their way onto the Skydock platform, bellowing at the gheist.

Once again, An'sec's ring flared, saving him from the ogors' onslaught. As he rematerialised next to Fallow's End House, the surviving ogor lept from the Sky Dock platform, ready to vent up his frustration on Kalyustar.

The second Kharadron party circled around Fallow's End House, their aethershots finally cutting the thread keeping An'sec in Wörtbad.

With the help of Fernando, Kalyustar pushed the ogor back. The Marksmen, recovering from the comet impact, stared at the lump of translucent rock.

'The comet is in your hand, Soulchemist. But how long can you hold it? Do you think you can keep using the orruks and duardin to fight your battles? Wouldn't it be easier to share the comet with those to whom this land belongs?'