When all through the world,
No words, no dreams then one day,
A writer by a fire,
Imagined all Gia,
Took a journey into a child-man's heart,
A painter on the shore,
Imagined all the world,
Within a snowflake on his palm,
Unframed by poetry,
A canvas of awe,
Planet Earth falling back into the stars
And with that I present to you my newly finished troupe of Wood Elf Wardancers. With background!
Wardancer Troupe: The Dark Passion Play
"Valour child, never lose your heart. Embrace your inner spark, your truest passions, that what makes you different, and never let others extinguish it."
Those who call themselves the Dark Passion Play are one of the two most prominent Wardancer troupes that hail from the Meadows of Heaven. Like all their kind, they are considered wild and eccentric by other elves, however in the Meadows of Heaven Wardancers, or at least the Wardancers that come from there, are heavily romanticised, and the wild, daring and exotic Wardancer is a common character in the storytelling of the Meadows of Heaven, either as the focus of exciting adventures or as a love interest who tempts the hero or heroine into their troupe (whether or not they are successful, and whether this is shown to be a good thing or not, varies greatly from tale to tale). Many of the Wardancers that originate from the Meadows of Heaven find this highly amusing, and it is not uncommon for them to act out such roles for auciences.
All elves in the Meadows of Heaven cherish uniqueness and individual identity, especially in recent times, however none express this value more than those in the Dark Passion Play. All it's members try to foster originality wherever they can, and will not hesitate to stand against those who prey on difference. Belittling another for their individuality is a very fast way to earn their wrath, and their anger is a fearsome thing indeed.
Many of those in the Dark Passion Play originate from within or around the Glade of Poppies, or otherwise have close ties with those who do, and so as well as being extremely well educated and knowledgeable even by the standards of elves, they also have a deep connection with the province. As such, when it was decimated during Cyanathair's first assault on Athel Loren, the troupe was left just as devastated as those who resided within the province. The Dark Passion Play was one of the units that led the counter-attack against the Beastmen horde that had ravaged the Glade of Poppies, and their fury and the acts of violence they unleashed on the invaders was terrifying to behold, with none surviving their vicious attacks. Afterwards they worked tirelessly with the survivors to rebuild the shattered province, and even now they are even more utterly without mercy than other Wood Elves in slaying the children of Chaos. Indeed, many of the weapons they wield are the same ones that were used by the great heroes of the Glade of Poppies that fell in it's defence, and the two Mayspears they carry with them are made from the shattered wood of the fallen banners of that battle, so that they might always remember the sacrifices and deeds of that day, so that it might never be repeated, and so that the fallen heroes of it may yet be avenged.
Like the other Wardancer troupes that come from the Meadows of Heaven, the Dark Passion play has a very decentralised leadership structure. While it does possess a Bladesinger who nominally provides leadership and guidance for the troupe, in practice most decisions are made collectively as an ensemble, which ensures both that all are in agreement on them, and that the troupe can still act effectively if tragedy befalls it's Bladesinger. Indeed, the troupe's musician has equal authority and status within the troupe, allowing it to split into two parties if need-be and remain fully capable. Both figures each carry a weapon known as a Mayspear, a long spear decorated with precious gemstones and adorned with long flowing colourful streamers used in battle, dance and the worship of Loec, to denote their position in the troupe, and whoever carries a Mayspear carries leadership and responsibility for the troupe with them.
With their skill, daring and flair, the Dark Passion Play is ever at the forefront of the Meadows of Heaven.
And the other bit of background I wrote for my Eternal Guard.
Eternal Guard: The Defenders of the Glade of Poppies
Of all the provinces of the Meadows of Heaven, few have a history more tragic than that of the Glade of Poppies.
Once the Glade of Poppies was the crown jewel of the Meadows of Heaven, second only to the capital of Imaginaerum in wonder and magnificence. It was a centre of learning, knowledge and academia, and was filled with some of the wisest minds in the Meadows of Heaven, and indeed in all of Athel Loren, and countless scholars and wise souls could be found within it, passing their knowledge on and studying the world around them ever more. It's name came from the great blood red poppies that grew in the grass of it's clearings and meadows, which were left to grow free, and grew to be extremely tall, some even getting to be taller than the elf children that played around them. Some of the greatest and fairest Wishmasters of the Meadows of Heaven came from there, and all studied in the Glade of Poppies at one point or another, while the advancements and knowledge of those who dwelt there was put to good use in bettering the lives of all who resided in the Meadows of Heaven.
It was during the first attack Cyanathair made against Athel Loren, at the very start of the Secret War, that saw the Glade of Poppies left in ruins, as the glade became the site of one of the fiercest and bloodiest of all those fought in the Meadows of Heaven. Upon hearing word of the Glade of Poppies and it's splendour, The Corruptor became filled with rage and hatred, and it sent a titanic horde of Beastmen and terrible monstrosities to raze and despoil the province. The Glade of Poppies was by no means defenceless however, and massed rank upon rank of Eternal Guard stood against the onslaught, supported by hundreds of elven archers. Initially the battle went well for the Wood Elves, and thousands of Beastmen and their vile allies were slain, struck down by arrows or cut down in a maelstrom of blades. Warhawk Riders harried at their flanks, while Waywatchers silently infiltrated into the heart of the enemy before felling the leaders of the force, plunging whole regiments of beasts into brutal chaos as they fought to determine a new leader, neutralising giant swathes of the enemy army with just a few well placed shots. But still the horde pressed on, seemingly without number. The decisive turning point of the battle came when the strange shamans that accompanied the horde managed to work a great and horrific spell. With tremendous power fuelled by the carnage and bloodshed unfolding around them, they managed to temporarily tear a hole between worlds, and from it poured a host of creatures born from nightmares and forged in total Chaos, new re-enforcements that appeared directly behind the elven lines. Caught between the two forces, the Wood Elves were trapped and the battle was lost. Still, the elves fought on with the courage of true heroes, and slew scores of Beastmen and Daemons alike, but the combined forces arrayed against them were too large to fully overcome, and eventually only twenty Eternal Guard warriors remained, the tattered remnants from different regiments banded together for a final stand, and they fought back to back against the overwhelming tide until all became blood and darkness.
When they awoke the next morning, they were in the centre of the Glade of Poppies, surrounded by blood, bodies, ash and destruction. The horde that had assailed the place was gone, but the Glade of Poppies was devastated. Countless trees had been cut down, burnt, or torn apart. Spites lay pinned up with nails and spikes of hell-forged black iron, their forms broken and mutilated. Sacred stones lay toppled and desecrated. The air was thick with choking cinders..... and every single one of the great poppies from which the province gained it's name had been cut down, stamped on, or razed.
As they saw the desolation, their hearts were filled with despair and grief, for their homes and their world had been torn from them and shattered. And so it was that they vowed that never again while they still drew breath would the poppies be allowed to be cut down again.
Since those dark times the Glade of Poppies has been healed, and blood red poppies once again grow free within it, though none have yet reached the height they once were. Even so, the damage wrought in that fateful battle has left lasting scars amongst the Asrai of the Meadows of Heaven, and it is likely that they will never forgive themselves or the minions of Chaos for it. The Battle of the Glade of Poppies is one of the most common stories told by the Wardancer troupes that come from the Meadows of Heaven, and through them and the storytelling nature of the Asrai that live within that territory knowledge of that great combat has spread to other parts of Athel Loren.
The Defenders of the Glade of Poppies is the regiment formed from the original twenty survivors of the battle of the Glade of Poppies, now formally organised as a single fighting unit. Having fought together side by side for many, many years, they have grown to become a fearsome fighting unit, with each member having full knowledge of the capabilities, strengths and idiosyncrasies of their comrades, allowing them to work together seamlessly to form something far greater than the sum of it's parts. The banner they carry into battle, the Banner of Poppies, is the only banner that did not fall in the battle of the Glade of Poppies, and was waved defiantly at the heart of the defence until the bitter end. It holds considerable magical properties, and is believed to be a legendary Razor Standard, as it hones the blades near it to supernatural sharpness, allowing them to shear through armour and thick hide alike with contemptuous ease. The Forrest has not forgotten the promise that they made so many years ago, and seems to have bestowed upon them some form of mystical fortitude, for they have been seen to survive grievous wounds that would have surly killed another elf. In addition, wherever they step foot blood red poppies, of the same variety that grow in the Glade of Poppies, have been known to spring up and grow, seemingly in reminder of their pledge and duty.
As well as their normal duties as a unit of Eternal Guard, the Defenders of the Glade of Poppies also act, in times of peace, as the main police force within the Meadows of Heaven, patrolling the territory and inspecting elven halls to ensure no Asrai causes strife and that the tenants of the Wishmaster are met. Their heritage and upbringing in the Glade of Poppies puts them in good stead for this role, as it gives them an extensive knowledge of the laws and traditions of the Meadows of Heaven.
And then because it's Saturday here's a short background piece I wrote in response to the new Wood Elf release.
A piercing cold wind gusted through the trees, bringing amber and crimson leaves dancing across the icy clear sky, a vast open canvas upon which was now painted the comely pinks and oranges of a serenely stunning and wholesome sunset, contrasted by the darkened shapes of the trees below. A few clouds the colour of caramel dozed across the firmament above. Though the scene was fair in fullest, to the grouped figures in the royal conclave glade the blood and flame coloured foliage that surrounded them also had a much more ominous, almost funereal tone to it. After all, it was a clear sign to all that Autumn was here, and that Winter was fast approaching, when trees and forest spirits lay dormant, and flowers and plants died. Even worse, Winter was the nadir of the great forest's power, and a long period of constant danger when it was at it's most vulnerable. The matters they were discussing only served to compound this feeling.
At the head of the circle, or at least the point of it closest to the grand Royal Hall, was Maxamaron, Wishmaster of the Meadows of Heaven, resplendent in his golden armour and the rich deep green of his Lorenweave Royal cloak. His Bow of Loren and it's accompanying quiver of Arcane Bodkins was slung across his back, for it was common practice for all Asrai to keep their bows close to them, lest danger come unexpectedly. Around the Wishmaster's head was the small and delicately slender crown of the Meadows of Heaven, and at his side was the magnificent King's Longsword, carried by every Wishmaster in the long history of the Meadows of Heaven. To the Wishmaster's left was the imposing form of his protector Gaerielle, her Spear of Twilight close at hand and her eyes constantly probing for hidden threats. To the Wishmaster's right was his royal standard bearer Moni'qeth, the current royal battle standard of the Meadows of Heaven firmly planted in the ground just behind her.
Opposite of them were the four governing mages of the Fey Glades and the Celestial Heath, representing the combined wisdom and power of the magic wielders in the Meadows of Heaven. Two of them, Aneaeth Ollissin, their leader, and Tirj'aelle Taerynen of the Winter Storm, both had flowing hair of a deep earthy brown, while the other two of their company, Char'loth Wyssyls of the April Rain and Ailyn, their newest member, had tresses of richest red. Ailyn was furthest away from the other three, close to the enormous verdant form of Avyrrnhan, one of the greatest Tree Lords that remained in the Meadows of Heaven. Though he still did his best to stand fully upright, the fatigue that the coming Winter brought with it was taking it's toll on the ancient treeman, and so occasionally he was forced to rest upon his massive forearms for a time. The Cluster of Radiants that dwelt upon him now circled his head like a wondrous glowing halo.
To either side of these two parties were other great lords and important figures in the Meadows of Heaven, Mir'q'arielle the Traveller, huddled within her cloak of Eagle down, Kaeron perched upon her shoulder, and a representative of the Great Eagles of the Meadows of Heaven perched majestically in the trees above. Opposite them was the lone and shadowed form of Saiyereth, the master of the Waywatchers in the Meadows of Heaven. A few spites played and danced about the assembly, but most of the forest spirits there huddled close to their hosts or companions, for there seemed to be little to be joyful about. All those taking part in the meeting or paying attention to it had sombre, haunted expressions to them.
"I did not fathom such a thing possible, but it seems even worse than we feared, if what the birds tell us and what our sentinels are witnessing is indeed true." Said Saiyereth.
"And yet all throughout Athel Loren they are celebrating," added Mir'q'arielle, "All across the forest Asrai and spirit alike are joined in great festivals. They welcome these new turns and twists with open arms, and laud them as miraculous. Ambitious plans of battle and warfare are being drawn up, and vast new armies raised. They act almost with the joy of two deep lovers reunited after much time apart. They are eager for these new fortunes."
"Yet while they do the Meadows of Heaven look upon these new changes with terror and despair," the Wishmaster said, "We see only damnation where they see salvation, however much we may gain from the coming developments."
"The spirits here are most disturbed by the new elder ones awaking," began Avyrrnhan, "They have been completely changed and twisted, and I no longer recognise them as kindred. There is something.... uncanny..... about them. Something dangerous. Something frightening. It feels like something is missing from them, some spark or seed. The other spirits of the Forrest and their companions may praise them, but not I. Not we."
"I concur," replied the Wishmaster, "They are indeed unnerving, and do not feel as though they belong here. But many of the Forrest Spirits avoid this place where they can, so I do not feel as troubled by them."
A flurry of spites rushed towards Ailyn and settled close around the spellsinger, nestling amongst the Pageant of Shrikes on her. "There is more cause for concern than just that my lord," she said, "There's also the Spites. Hundreds upon hundreds of them are fleeing into our realm, driven here by fear greater than that they have of you. It's these changes, they terrify them. They fear they will be swept up by them and fade into nothingness or uselessness. Mischievous they may be, they love nothing more than to help the forest and it's denizens in the end. They do not wish to go away. They are frightened."
"They need not worry Ailyn," said the Wishmaster, "They will always find refuge and sanctuary here. Even if the other elves forget their importance, we will forever value their power."
"Very good." Said Avyrrnhan, "It is... good to see that even with the rot at your core you still hold respect for the children of the Forrest."
"The most dire news of all," Aneaeth said, "Is that of the changing magical landscape. It would seem that other Asrai are eschewing the traditional channels of magical power, and turning to the outsider lores of magic. I'm not sure which frightens me more, that they dabble in the shadow and death magic of the Beastmen vermin, or that they experiment with the unholy power of the dark magic practised by the Druchii. Either would certainly spell doom for the Forrest, and these new magic practices threaten to wreak havoc upon it's balance. Already we can feel the shudders of pain they are starting to bring to it."
"I find it odd," Char'loth added, "That the other Asrai sing praise of new freedom, while their rejection of the old ways may actually mean less of it with the loss of the lore of Athel Loren that it brings with it. I believe that the preservation of the knowledge of the Lore of Athel Loren be given high priority."
"Agreed." replied the Wishmaster.
"And yet," said Tirj'aelle, "We may gain something from this. Without the restrictions, we could harness more of the natural power in the greater world." Of the four mages, Tirj'aelle was always the one with the closest affinity to the firmament, stargazing and scrying. She was excited about the thought of studying the lore of the Heavens and unlocking it's power.
"No." responded Aneaeth, "Such a prospect is too dangerous, and the loss of the magic of Athel Loren and Treesinging is far too steep a cost for it."
"What is our course of action then?" asked Saiyereth.
"They have shown they will not listen to us," said Gaerielle, "We should respond with force, and retaliate against those who would seek to pervert our ways. Our forces are capable enough."
"No," responded the Wishmaster, "Even if we could win a war against all the rest of Athel Loren, they are not our enemies. We must keep our focus on the true adversaries, those outside who seek to despoil the forest."
"I would not rule out diplomacy just yet Wishmaster," said Mir'q'arielle, "I could journey to the Oak of Ages and parley with Ariel. With her connection to the forest, it's sorrow at the touch of these insidious new magics must surely be being felt by her. It may still be possible to convince her to our plight."
"I doubt that she will be swayed, but it is certainly worth a try," said the Wishmaster, "Make it so. Venture to the Oak of Ages, Mir'q'arielle, and investigate just what is happening to the forest. Take any who wish to join you back to the Meadows of Heaven."
"It shall be done Wishmaster."
"in the meantime, our concerns must as ever be for the people of this territory."
"The people are frightened Wishmaster," Saiyereth said, "They fear we may have to give up our ways of life. They fear they may be in danger."
"They will be safe," replied the Wishmaster, "We will see to their safety, though it may mean that we must sever some of our ties with the rest of Athel Loren. We shall of course continue to hunt those who would seek to harm the forest, but it may have to be in even more secret then it is now. It seems our deeds may never be recorded in the Hall of Honours."
"Unsung heroes." said Gaerielle.
"Even so our actions may yet be remembered," Moni'qeth said, "The Glade of Poppies keeps a well preserved and recoded archive, and the Wardancers of this territory are ever ready to tell our tales. They will certainly be glad to tell our stories to the rest of the forest."
"Indeed," said the Wishmaster, "If indeed there remains a forest to tell them to."
The Wishmaster looked up and contemplated the Eventide. "It feels as though this world is dying," he said, "And as though we are powerless to stop it. With these new changes, it seems more than ever that we may be trapped between worlds."
"Despair not," Moni'qeth said, "We will fight to preserve what we treasure, even if it is never witnessed."
A flight of ebony ravens cried as they flew across the glade. Their harsh calls sent a shiver down the assembly, and their hearts skipped a beat. All those who dwelt in Athel Loren knew of the blood-eyed shrikes that were one of the forms taken by the Lamentation of Despairs. If they were reaper spirits however, none of the party fell, so for whom they called for it could not be told.
"Now then," said the Wishmaster, "let us see about containing the threat of this new magic.."
Finally, my fledgling Wood Elf army had it's first outing in the local Games Workshop store yesterday. I didn't get any games in with it, but I did manage to set it all out on an unused table to show it off.