Friday, 18 July 2014

Ailyn the Spellsinger, and some stuff about background and Tau (I couldn't think of any clever title puns or cool sounding titles)

An owl hooted off in the gloomy distance as Mir'q'arielle steadily made her way along the winding forest path. At least she thought it was an owl as she trod on through the shadows, it occurred to her that it could just as easily be some form of spite or other fey spirit, or even other Asrai communicating with each other in secret. Either way the Wood Elf thought it best to keep moving. Though still daylight in the outside world (by her reckoning at least), the canopy of this part of Athel Loren was dense enough to block out almost any sunshine, casting an ominous and eerie darkened shade over the wood. Anywhere beyond a few dozen or so paces was completely obscured by darkness, and as was common in Athel Loren small beady eyes occasionally glinted out of crevices and hiding places, and every so often something would skitter or scamper across the path just out of sight. Nonetheless, the dusty, twisting, leaf-strewn path was at least somewhat illuminated, and had yet to turn in upon itself or vanish off at a dead end. It seemed that The Forrest was at least allowing Mir'q'arielle to continue on her quest, for now at least.

And it was fortunate indeed that Mir'q'arielle continued to be uninterrupted in her journey, for it was of utmost importance - she was to travel to the Oak of Ages itself, and appear before Ariel, the Queen in the Wood herself, and make one final attempt to reason with her and the rest of the Asrai. One last attempt to peacefully reconcile the Meadows of Heaven with the rest of Athel Loren, through diplomacy and negotiation. One last attempt to talk sense into the rest of the Elves, to try and get them to see and realise the danger and madness that was sweeping through the once great forest, and to convince them to take action against it alongside the Meadows of Heaven.

The Asrai noble plucked a string of the Rhymer's Harp she had brought with her from the royal armoury of the Meadows of Heaven, and instantly its magic propelled her through another sizeable part of the forest path in the span of a few short moments. Normally Mir'q'arielle did not travel with one, but this was an important task and so she had been provided with one and a small satchel bag to carry it in. The musical note's effect wore off and she returned to her normal speed, passing through another stretch of the lonely forest path.

At once, Mir'q'arielle's cloak took on a life of its own, trembling and shifting as the Murder of Spites that called its folds and feathers home suddenly rushed out to confront an unseen danger, Kaereon taking flight in the same direction. In a blur of movement Mir'q'arielle spun around to face the danger, only to face nothing but more shadows. A movement caught on the edge of her vision sent her turning to the other side, but the obscured shape twirled away behind her. She heard footfalls just behind her before the mysterious assailant leapt over her head and somersaulted to her front in a whirl of colour and streamers, before settling into the shape of a tall athletic female elf with deep rich electric red hair, a long spear in one hand and an elegant sword in the other.

"What such dull wits you've been left with Traveller," the Elf said with a chuckle, "Your companions spotted me quick enough, but even then its a wonder you've gotten on this far through the woods. All that time spent picking foes off with that old longbow of yours must have left you flat-footed."

Mir'q'arielle could not believe her eyes. "Aemiria!" She exclaimed, "By Isha! We thought you were dead! The horde-"

The Deathdancer laughed, and jumped and shifted as she spoke. "It takes more than a few hundred servants of Chaos to slay the Queen of Muses. By Loec's good graces, and the steel of his blades, I managed to survive the battle, but was separated and some distance from the Asrai lines. After much wandering, battling darkness at every turn, I managed to find my way back to Athel Loren."

"Why did you not return to the Meadows of Heaven?" Mir'q'arielle asked.

"I intended to, but the Elvenpath was secreted from me. It seems that The Forrest wished a new and different adventure for me, for instead I ended up journeying deep into the wood. At long last I arrived in the heart of Athel Loren, in the area they now call Fyr Darric, where I visited the great stronghold of my kind, the Feast Halls of the Wardance. It has become a dark and twisted place, filled with sadism and wanton cruelty and malice. They consider it now a game to have blood contests with captives, only to execute them as slowly and painfully as possible. Such an appalling practice I would expect from the corrupt and bitter Druchi, but not from noble Asrai, I would like to think we're better than that. And that is but one of their many degenerate sports. Alas, they are also extremely vigilant. I was kept in the region for many many seasons, unable to leave."

"How awful. It must have been painful for you to see the great bastion of your people fallen so."

"My people are the Elves of the Meadows of Heaven Mir'q'arielle, never forget that. But it did fill my heart with sorrow to see my Wardancer kin so depraved. Fortunately a few weeks ago, at least that's what it feels like, I was able to escape my retainers and slip out of the territory along with my Blades of Loec, which I was sure to steal away with me from where they were being kept after their confiscation. I've been wandering the forest ever since."

Mir'q'arielle stood, taking in everything she was being told as the Spites returned to her cloak. "It is good that we ran into each other then."

"Always good to have a travelling companion, but we must make haste. My escape cannot have gone unnoticed. Fyr Darric's hounds must surely be hunting for me even now. We must return to the Meadows of Heaven. I have seen much of what Athel Loren has become, and much of the darkness creeping through it. I must speak with the Wishmaster at once."

"We know as well Aemiria. I had set out to seek audience with Ariel to rouse the Asrai to action."

"Ariel has grown as decadent and corrupt as any of them. She has grown intoxicated with the accursed Dark Magic that they even now practice with wanton abandon. I'm afraid she would not listen. I'm not sure any of them would. The Wishmaster must be informed of the full extent of the danger."

"Then we could send word with an Eagle. I have good ties with-"

"No, some of the Eagles have ties with Argwylon, a place of magic academia in the north, they could easily report us to them. As noble as they may be, the Eagles cannot be trusted with this. We must travel back and deliver the news ourselves."

Mir'q'arielle looked down. She had a long history with the Great Eagles, to think they could not be depended on was difficult to bear. "I see," she said. "Let us be off then."

"Excellent," Aemiria replied, "Lead on friend. Along the way I will recount to you all of my thrilling escapades and adventures I have had along the way."

"Only if you retell them again when we get there," Mir'q'arielle said, "I am sure the Wishmaster will want to hear all of your tale as well." 

So the other day I finally finished something that's been sitting on my hobby space ever since I got the characters for my Wood Elf army - my Spellsinger on a Unicorn. It was long, and it was hard, and working with greenstuff is now one of the top contenders for 'most horrific excruciating torture I have ever endured in this hobby', but I finally did it. And now here she is, my Spellsinger, Ailyn! 

When I first conceived the idea of my Wood Elf army I had four very clear ideas about the characters I wanted in it. Two of those became Maxamaron and Moni'qeth, my general and standard bearer. The other two were the wizards I wanted in my army. I knew right from the get-go I wanted two wizards, one with the Lore of Athel Loren, and the other with another Lore, which I decided would be life (this was the days before the new Wood Elf book, so I couldn't choose just anything, but Life fits in with my idea of Wood Elf wizards acting as medics or healers in the Wood Elf army, and I also wanted to make sure I could keep my warriors in top health. I care about them like that).

I also had a clear vision of exactly what I wanted them both to be like. The typical Warhammer wizard is often somewhat flamboyant and extravagant, and so I wanted one of my wizards to break away and be different from this archetype by being quite humble and simple in their attire and the items they used, an older wiser magic user that knew that adding gems to something doesn't make it magical, it just makes it expensive - this would become Aneaeth Ollissin, my Spellweaver. The second wizard, on the other hand, I wanted to be much more extravagant, to contrast. At the same time, I knew as soon as I saw it as an option that I wanted one of the wizards to be riding a Unicorn. I love classic fantasy tropes and conventions, and it doesn't get much more classic than a beautiful Elven maiden riding a Unicorn and wielding magic. Finally, I knew I wanted one of the wizards to have red hair. I put these trains of thought together to create a quintissential vision of a classical attractive young Elf mage atop a Unicorn with flowing red hair, and this fitted perfectly with my want for an extravegant wizard. It also lead to the nucleus of the character backstory, she would be a young inexperienced, but gifted Spellsinger, in contrast with the aforementioned wiser, older one. This younger Spellsinger I decided to name Ailyn.

After scouring GW's model range for suitable female heads for converting these two magic practitioners (I never liked the puffed out 'super saiyan' style hair of the official female Wood Elf wizards), it quickly became obvious what model would be used as the basis for the younger spellsinger - The Fey Enchantress from the Bretonnian range. Its a model I deeply love (much like the rest of the Bretonnian model range), and even knowing that it was a sacrifice for the greater good it was heard to cut her to bits, but in the end I managed it by promising myself that one day I would put together and paint up the Fey Enchantress in all her Bretonnian glory. Anyway, the first thing I did was remove the Unicorn, replacing it with the unmounted one (re)released for Storm of Magic, ever so subtly converted. My original plan was to then cut away the Enchantress's torso and replace it with one from a Spellweaver model, but that eventually proved far too impractical to do (getting her off her Unicorn ended up being hard enough as it was!), so in the end I resorted to my contingency plan of simply switching her goblet arm with the staff arm from the aforementioned spellweaver model. I feel that most wizards should have a staff, and even if they don't, I planned on giving this one Calaingor's Stave anyway, so it'd be nice and WYSIWYG that way, as well as helping to differentiate her from the normal Fey Enchantress model. The other part of said contingency plan was the addition of vines along her dress to make it look more Wood Elfish, which I think I did quite well on, even if one of them broke off as I was undercoating her (which is why there's one leaf just above her knee awkwardly floating there. Oh well, I don't think it looks that bad). The next step was to fill out the top of the model's head. The Fey Enchantress has a crown topped with a big fleur-de-lis, which I removed along with all the other fleur-de-lisses on the model, but this ended up leaving a big space of flat resin on the top of her head, so I had to sculpt something to cover it up. I was going to go with leaves, but hair proved to be easier to do. After that I added a daisy-chain around her head, its an element right back from my original vision of the character, and I feel the idea of a lovely young Spellsinger with flowers in her hair is very Wood-Elfish. I'd originally planned to have the Unicorn be completely unadorned, a wild free creature with nothing on it except the Spellsinger that was riding it. However, Spellsingers come with a longbow as standard issue, just like any other Asrai character, and there wasn't anywhere on the Spellsinger herself to put one, so I stuck it and a quiver of arrows for it on the Unicorn, slung on with a leather loop greenstuffed around the Unicorn's body.

The base is another holdover from my original vision (to which the final model is actually extremely close to). In the background Ailyn is so full of the power of the forest that life springs up and blooms wherever she walks (or wherever her Unicorn walks when she's riding it), and so her base is covered in flowers, both small ones made from grated up sponge (using the very fine tutorial on this very forum) and larger ones crudely formed out of wire and greenstuff, along with a single large bumblebee, again crudely formed from greenstuff. Yes, I am fully aware that a bee that size would in fact be the size of a large kitten, I do not care - it is clearly a magical giant bee. I imagine a magical forest like Athel Loren needs plenty of magical pollenators, and Spites only do so much. Besides, there are giant hawks and giant eagles, why can't there be giant bees as well?

All in all I'm actually quite content with how Ailyn turned out. I think I might have liked more flowers on the base, but I think it worked out ok in the end. Anyway, background time. 

Ailyn, Glamourweave Spellsinger of the Meadows of Heaven 

In these darkened days, Ailyn is of an increasingly fewer kind. The newest and youngest of the four mages that govern the Fey Glades and the Celestial Heath, Ailyn is one of the last remaining members of the Kindreds of Yenayla - the Glamourweave Kindred. A smaller Kindred within the Spellsinger and Spellweaver Kindreds, the Glamourweave Kindred is known by many names; Shaper, Tree-Singer, Skein-Weaver, Shadow-Walker, Changeling, Wood-seer, Grove-kin and Wood-shaper are just a few well known titles they are known to go by. Glamourweaves are extremely closely linked to Athel Loren, and are as much Forrest Spirit as they are Elf, in a similar manner to the Wild Riders of Kurnous. They are dedicated to maintaining the correct balance in Athel Loren, and in times past they would often act as envoys to the older spirits of The Forrest. Alas, as the Asrai turned away from the older traditions of Athel Loren, the Glamourweaves, much like many of the other more specialised Kindreds, largely died out, and in the present time in most of Athel Loren they are all but extinct. The Meadows of Heaven, however, never abandoned the older ways, and so the territory remains a haven for all Kindreds, the Glamourweave included, and so a number of Glamourweaves continue to keep their Kindred and its teachings alive, though as they were never a large Kindred to start with they are few in number.

As well as this, Ailyn is also one of the last few who practice the fabled Lore of Athel Loren. A strange and subtle lore, the Lore of Athel Loren is a form of spellcraft that comes from magic flowing trough Athel Loren's web of consciousness. This fey form of magic can be used to create powerful glamours and illusions, or to heal even the most grievous of wounds with a touch. An Elf using the Lore of Athel Loren can weave spells of confusion and trickery to hide important areas, objects, or even entire armies, and can cast dangerous blasts that can strip a target of its memories and wits. This lore can even be used to access the secret and hidden pathways in the world, even those inaccessible by Moonstone, allowing allies to move quickly unimpeded by even the most daunting of terrain, or to disappear completely and reappear somewhere else entirely. Most impressive of all of the powers available through the Lore of Athel Loren however, is the ability to influence and alter the growth of trees and foliage, whether it be to incite a tree to grow into a beautiful structure or monument, or to cause entire groves to uproot and shift to create new glades or pathways or seal off existing ones. Many Asrai in the rest of Athel Loren no longer have a strong enough connection to the raw mystical power of Athel Loren, with their connection having over the seasons been corrupted by the use of Dark Magic, and so most territories in Athel Loren no longer practice its use - even Argwylon, for all its vaunted knowledge, retains little education or expertise regarding it. The Asrai of the Meadows of Heaven, however, never took to practising the more unwholesome forms of magic. Such forms of magic are illegal in the Meadows of Heaven, in the eyes of the Asrai of the Meadows of Heaven, magic forms such as the Dark Magic, the Lore of Death or even the Lore of Shadow are the magics used by the hated Druchi and Beastmen, and consequently they consider the use of such lores to be stooping to the level of those tainted beings, and thus abhorrent. As a result, the connection between the Spellsingers and Spellweavers of the Meadows of Heaven and the consciousness of Athel Loren is pure enough to still be able to make use of the Lore of Athel Loren, and so its practice remains common within the territory.

As a result of this, the mystical power of Athel Loren flows through Ailyn's veins as much as Elven blood does, and she feels much of what The Forrest feels. In recent times this has been the cause of great pain, as she feels madness and corruption twisting through Athel Loren's glades and trees. Her Glamourweave nature also gives Ailyn a close affinity to Forrest Spirits, especially Spites, and together with the ancient Treeman Avyrrnhan she represents the interests of the Forrest Spirits in the Meadows of Heaven, speaking for their needs before the Wishmaster. This deep connection with Athel Loren alone makes Ailyn a valuable member of the royal court of the Meadows of Heaven, but it is not for this reason that she rose to her current position. Instead, Aneaeth Ollissin chose her to become the fourth member of the ruling council of the Fey Glades and the Celestial Heath, representative of Spring, because of the immense magical capacity Ailyn possesses. Though still quite young by Elf standards, Ailyn holds unprecedented amounts of magical ability, perhaps rivalling that of even Ariel herself. She is however, still young and extremely inexperienced, and currently lacks the skill and knowledge to use her abilities to their fullest extent, and so the vast majority of this incredible power remains latent and untapped. Nonetheless, she has already demonstrated this exceptional talent - one of the first actions she ever did as a Spellsinger was to inadvertently awaken the slumbering Avyrnhan completely effortlessly, and it was this action that brought her to the attention of Aneaeth, who since then has made it her task to take the young Spellsinger under her wing as an apprentice, teaching her the ways and knowledge of magical practice.

She also gave Ailyn the staff she now wields, one of Calaingor's Staves. The Calaingor's Staves of the Meadows of Heaven, however, are very different to the ones now used in other parts of Athel Loren. Where the latter purify and strengthen a Spellsinger or Spellweaver's connection with Athel Loren enough to make use of basic spells from the Lore of Athel Loren, a Calaingor's Stave of the Meadows of Heaven enhances a Spellsinger or Spellweaver's command over the Lore of Athel Loren, allowing them to Tree-Sing repeatedly, commanding entire swathes of Forrest at once. The immense raw magical ability of Ailyn has also brought a Unicorn into her service, the magical creature being utterly seduced by the power within her. In addition, such is the extent that the Spites of the Meadows of Heaven adore her that she is escorted at all times by a Pagent of Shrikes.

In the days following the estrangement of the Meadows of Heaven from the rest of Athel Loren, Ailyn has been increasingly pained and saddened by the plight of the forest, and so she has taken it upon herself to restore The Forrest to its true glory. In recent times she has come to spend more and more time roaming the forest of Athel Loren, healing the damage done to it and restoring harmony to it. She brings Daylight to Modryn, and seasons to Arranoc, Atylwyth and Tirsyth, and does what she can to equalise the other areas of Athel Loren. However, she is but one individual, and cannot be everywhere at once, and such is the extent of the changes wrought upon Athel Loren that the Forrest invariably returns to its disharmonious state when she leaves. Even so, Ailyn continues her long quest, determined to do as much as she can to restore the proper balance to Athel Loren, no matter how long it takes.

Somewhat bizarrely however, Ailyn may not be alone in her quest. In recent days rumours and talk have begun to spread about a startling phenomena. Spites have reportedly been seen or glimpsed in vast numbers, entire armies of them pouring through the Forrest. According to tales, this 'Spite Crusade' works ceaselessly and relentlessly to undo the changes in Athel Loren, healing corruption and mercilessly battling intruders, and even occasionally striking out at Elves practising certain forms of magic. Most who claim to have seen this also say that these Spite armies head in directions that have an uncanny tendency to coincide with the direction Ailyn travels in, and all apparently can be traced back to the Meadows of Heaven. The exact nature or purpose behind this supposed 'Spite Crusade' remains a mystery. Some suggest that they might be a secret weapon unleashed by the Meadows of Heaven to dominate the rest of Athel Loren covertly. Others think that Ailyn's quest to heal Athel Loren has created an example that the Spites aspire to emulate. Others still claim that it is the work of Drycha, or that it is the first stage in a rebellion against the Elf presence in Athel Loren. Some instead argue the simple explanation that it is a natural reaction to some of the worst excesses of the Season of Retribution (or the Season of Lunacy as it is known in the Meadows of Heaven). Whatever the truth may be, the so called 'Spite Crusade' remains largely unproven, the stuff of fancy tales told in Halls by travellers. Still, talk and sightings of the phenomenon grow more and more numerous each season. While the Spites may have good intentions at heart, if the 'Spite Crusade' is indeed true it could have dangerous consequences for Athel Loren, as its invasive activities, especially the reported attacks on Elves, could give Araloth and the other Asrai opposed to the Meadows of Heaven and its ways the pretext they need to make war upon the Meadows of Heaven.... 

And finally a short while ago my local Games Workshop store had its birthday, and to celebrate they threw a giffle giveaway where I won.... this. 

In case you can't tell, its a Tau bundle including a Hammerhead, 3 Crisis Suits, a Firewarrior team and some Gun Drones. According to my estimates its roughly $265 worth of models for free. And it goes great with the Devilfish, Crisis Suit and Stealth Team I won in the Christmas giffle giveaway. Granted, this one didn't include bases for the models, so I'll have to get those seprately, but even taking that into account its still a massive discount off what it usually would cost. 

Assuming there's another Christmas giffle giveaway, with a bit of luck I might end up with a small Tau army entirely for free. This pleases me. 

Right then, back to more hobby. 


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