It's in the timing of course. When this blog first tore its way screaming into this universe, fresh blood dripping from its nubile form as it sucked in gaspfulls of icy air into its pulsing lungs and grasped a sword before any sustenance, it was the end of 2013. As explored before since then, I had been painting models for a long time by then, and the history of Millitant's adventures in little metal worlds stretches back long past that point. But most notably, being first started at the end of 2013 means that the entire start of my main army for Warhammer was completely overlooked on here.
The time has come to correct that mistake.
There's something in the air now. Something set in motion that shall rule the fate of many. The board is set and the pieces are already in motion. A new concept has begun living rent free in my brain, a vision of a grand sprawling epic that might very well one day soon sweep the internet (or at least the Warhammer part of the internet) by storm. For now it is a secret that only blogs can tell, because it involves an eternity of planning, admin work and writing reams and reams of silly backstory, plus a number of technologies I do not yet possess.
And the first step on that long road is to know thyself, which means making sense of my own Warhammer armies. And that in turn means that I must finally begin the long, painful, thankless task of sifting through the backstory and units of my Wood Elf army, and reforging it anew.
In contrast to my Tau army in Warhammer 40,000, whose beginnings are becoming ever more steeped in legend and myth as more and more of my childhood is lost like tears in the rain, the origin of my Wood Elves is much more clearly documented, because it is much more modern. This is because for most of the first 17 years of my existence my pop cultural genre tastes were very early and very, very, very strongly rooted in science fiction over fantasy. Like a lot of cis male lads born in the 1990s, I quickly developed a strong fascination with various kinds of technological machinery at an early age. What started as an obsession with real-life cars, trucks, agricultural and construction machinery and all kinds of aerospace vehicles quickly moved on to Thunderbirds, Beast Wars and this very obscure short-lived 1990s Flash Gordon cartoon once I discovered television (there were many, many, many more such cartoons to follow), and then Men In Black and Star Wars once I discovered VHS tapes, with various assorted space opera artwork running throughout as I discovered books. After discovering Lego I was always much more drawn to the Space and Aquanaut ranges than I ever was the Pirates and Castle ones. Later on when I discovered video games I largely overlooked Age Of Empires in favour of Command & Conquer and later Starcraft.
There were a few exceptions of course - Deltora Quest and later Harry Potter (because of course it did, I was born in the 1990s after all) remained very conspicuous islands of swords and dragons in a sea of lasers and spaceships, as did Slizers and later Bionicle. And every so often I would shamelessly pilfer some fantasy concept or another and work it into science fiction with Games Workshop efficiency - most of the fantasy universes I encountered in the wild invariably got elevated to 'future'-grade technology, and a lot of dragons got imported into space adventures, often receiving a cybernetic makeover in the process (seriously, why are there no cyber-dragons in 40k? Tolkien Orcs and Elves with spaceships are fine, but you draw the line at a general riding a giant fire-breathing cyborg dragon with a couple dozen laser cannons and missile launchers strapped onto it? REALLY?). But by and large, for pretty much all of my pre-adult life, the rule of thumb when it came to what kind of made-up worlds I liked was "Give me sci-fi or give me death".
It was in the aesthetics you see. Science fiction, especially the space opera variety that was my favourite, was full of all these spaceships and robots and hover tanks that all zipped around quickly (or stomped around ominously) and made cool noises, as well as all these lasers and rocket launchers and machine guns and such that all made the bad guys explode, which lent science fiction visuals a certain kind of explosive oomph that a bunch of dudes poking each other with sticks (or occasionally dropping rocks on each other) could just never quite match. This mixed with the distinctive brand of savage venomous tribalism that came naturally to me back then (I blame what appears to be a long line of hyper-competitive Tools on my father's side and the cycle of hyper-competition that they fostered) to produce a particularly cringeworthy fanaticism of science fiction over fantasy that persisted for over a decade and a half. Even when I started discovering Horror Films I locked onto psychological thrillers first because oh my god only little babies are scared of ghosts and vampires and junk (yes that really is what my poor wretched misguided self thought once upon a time).
(The other, even more horrifying side of this is that I also had a very unfortunate undercurrent of Toxic Masculinity imprinted on me from a young age, which left me feeling compelled to distance myself from a lot of fantasy content out of fear of it being too girly with all those princesses running around. However hard you might be cringing at reading that, I can assure you that I am cringing at least twice as hard thinking back on it. Fortunately increasing contact with girls in High School - and some key female role-models in the media I consumed - was eventually able to deprogram me of such lunacy)
Throughout this period there was also something else bubbling under the surface after I discovered tabletop games. After getting my first ever White Dwarf magazine copy in early 2006 I was introduced to the Dwarfs that inhabited this strange alien undiscovered country of Warhammer that existed on the far side of the Games Workshop hobby that was by now giving me Warhammer 40,000. This was important, because these Dwarfs weren't like other fantasy civilisations. They had guns. They had flamethrowers. They had a primitive clock-punk attack helicopter. And THAT was enough to get my attention, in much the same way that featuring a clock-punk space shuttle in The Last Hero was enough to get me interested in Discworld. It wasn't nearly enough to win me over to this whole fantasy thing, but it was enough to begin bridging the gap.
This was followed a little later by another White Dwarf magazine that introduced me to the Empire that inhabited this strange alien Warhammer game. Again, they had guns. And gattling guns. And rocket launchers. And a clock-punk tank. In the White Dwarf they were fighting these Vampire Count guys that had an army of zombies and wolves and ghosts and bats and things and while in the past these kinds of Halloween monsters had always felt kinda lame, these ones actually looked pretty dope.
Maybe this whole Warhammer fantasy thing isn't as lame as I first thought it was.
This more or less continued for a few years, before being completely swallowed up in the unprecedented upheaval that began in the 2010s. History is always a tangled chaotic mess of interlinking factors and causes and effects, and it is no different with the history of a person. But nonetheless, most historians traditionally trace the dramatic seismic shift in pop-cultural tastes that comprised the Fantasy Reformation of 2010 - 2012 to three key events.
The first was the discovery of Urban Fantasy TV shows, specifically Angel, Buffy The Vampire Slayer and especially Supernatural. This was important because, as well as being really fun cool amazing pieces of television, they all featured a common theme of including nominally fantasy elements like monsters and magic in the nominally technological world of 20th century civilisation - Supernatural even had the characters fighting the demons and vampires and monsters with guns. It was just the right blend of modern and fantasy, coming in at just the right time of peak moody adolescence when I was ripe for gothic content, that these shows became the final missing link needed to bridge the gap and get me interested in fantasy... of a sort.
Perhaps even more importantly for this story, these shows also primed me for what was to come for later...
The next watershed moment came not long after, around the winter of 2010, when I went through what is quite possibly the only true religious experience I have ever had thus far, almost entirely by accident. By this time I had gotten into the LetsPlay videos of Youtuber Helloween45 - Helloween covered Horror video games, which seemed like the next logical step after discovering Horror films and TV shows. For one of his videos he was forced by technical problems to put together a slide-show of screenshots and ran that with some music over it. Helloween will never know just how much of a profound earthshaking event he was about to unleash when he decided to use the song he chose, on what I assume was entirely a whim. But he made that fateful choice, and I, following his videos, heard that song, and nothing would ever be the same again.
The song was called Amaranth, and it was by a band called Nightwish.
Words cannot convey just how profound listening to that song was. See, up until this point I had never really quite gotten music. Like, I could enjoy listening to it well enough, and I could follow Top 40 Pop music enough to converse with the girls at high school about it, but the idea of being as invested in it as much as I saw a lot of people was alien to me. I just wasn't really passionate about music like I was other things, and I could not give a favourite genre, artist or song to save my life (in fact, I actually failed a couple of class projects because of it). But this was different. Listening to this song, for the first time I really felt myself reflected in music. When I discovered Nightwish, I found my voice.
When I discovered Nightwish, I finally found my sound.
For the rest of the year, my eardrums quickly began to swim in a soup of symphonic metal as I devoured every Nightwish song I could find on Youtube as ravenously as I had devoured Warhammer 40,000 lore eight years earlier. That Christmas my best friend got me a CD of Dark Passion Play that remains one of my most treasured possessions, and I listened to it religiously for the next year. I would of course later discover other artists of a similar style that I loved, but Nightwish would forever remain my all-time favourite, and Amaranth my all-time favourite song.
But Amaranth did more than just that. It also opened my eyes to looking at traditional fantasy in a whole new light. It's soundscape, atmosphere and accompanying music video that I watched 1100 times finally got me thinking that epic fantasy adventures could be, well, epic in their own right. And then I discovered this other little number.
It was called The Last Of The Wilds.
There are no words in The Last Of The Wilds, just 6 minutes of heart-melting instrumental beauty, and the more I listened to it the more inspired I was of faraway lands of snow-veiled mountains, deep forests of rich green pines, storm-scourged seas at midnight, silver full moons and stars, giant hawks and eagles, fearsome dragons and adventure at every turn. Now, I was finally vibing with traditional fantasy, without any technological training wheels. By now I had also been thoroughly opened up to the subgenre of dark fairy-tales, and had also gotten into Once Upon A Time.
This too primed me for what was soon to come...
By this stage my curiosity of Warhammer had crystallised into genuine deep interest and a resolution to get involved with it at some point. My starting up with Warhammer was no longer a question of 'if', but of 'when' and 'with what game faction'. The front-runners at this point were Dwarfs (still riding the initial "Oh wow they have guns" factor and piggy-backing my explosively growing obsession with all things Nordic at the time), Bretonnians (having rediscovered them after rethinking everything I had ever believed about fairytales and, as mentioned, Once Upon A Time) and Vampire Counts (plugging into all that Horror shtick that I had deep-dived into in the preceding years and Victoria Frances artwork. Plus I still thought the concept of an army of horror monsters was pretty dope). The Empire and High Elves were also intriguing possibilities. There were also these Beastmen and Wood Elf armies that I remained curious about, having inquired into them in the past (before the Fantasy Reformation) but was unsure of what to make of them, save that the Wood Elves had these cavalry troops that rode GIANT HAWKS which was the dopest thing ever (so much so that I had stolen the concept and given it a sci-fi twist many years earlier).
Then came the third watershed moment of the Fantasy Reformation of 2010 - 2012. And my fate was sealed.
In the spring of 2012, around Term 3 of my final year at high school, I began to become aware of the latest video game Blizzard was working on. I think someone might have shared the trailer with me at some point. Regardless of how I found it, this trailer showed me a window into a dark gloomy fantasy world where humans struggled to survive in the cross-fire of wars between angels and demons. In other words, the culmination of all of the things that I had been deep-diving into over the last couple of years. I knew then that I had to have this video game and play through it. I needed to know more
The trailer was for a video game called Diablo III.
The really important thing happened a short while later, when more information about the game became available and it turned out that one of the playable character options in this upcoming game was a person called a Demon Hunter. Demon Hunters roamed the land of the game's setting fighting Demons with crossbows and various ingenious traps and devices - just like the characters in Buffy, Angel and Supernatural. Demon Hunters went about their adventures clad head to toe in brooding dark cloak-and-hood getup, just like a lot of the characters in the fantasy artwork that I thought looked the most rad. And the female character model looked a lot like a lot of the singers in all the symphonic metal bands that had by now well and truly become my jam. In other words, this character class embodied the culmination of all the things I had been deep-diving into over the last couple of years. It was meant to be. I knew that when I got my hands on this Diablo III video game, that would be the character I would play as.
I got my hands on that Diablo III video game for Christmas that year, and then spent the rest of the summer enjoying the simpler pleasures of shooting demons in the face with a crossbow. It was tremendous, enormous fun and I loved every second of it (except when the game said no because my wifi wasn't good enough for it). And from then on I knew exactly what I wanted my first Warhammer army to be like - I wanted an army just like the Demon Hunter I had been playing as. I would accept no substitute. In the moments when I could manage to tear myself away from Diablo III, I scoured the Warhammer model ranges for a game faction that would give me the army style I so craved, and began to grow increasingly dismayed when I found nothing that came even close to it...
... until I remembered that Wood Elf line and gave it another look over.
Yes. This was it. The Waywatcher models were enough to cue me into this line being the one that would provide me with the army of cloaked hooded bow-slinging anti-heroes that I so desired. Sure they used plain old longbows instead of the cool snappy pistol crossbows I had been enjoying in Diablo III, but that was a minor annoyance at most, it was still close enough.
And so it was that in early 2013, I went out after my University classes had finished for the day, visited the GW store that was conveniently just a 15-minute walk away from campus at the time, and went home with a copy of the rulebook for 8th edition Warhammer. A few weeks later, I did the same thing and went home with a copy of the Wood Elf army book and a Battalion Box on which to found my brand new army for this strange new world of fantasy adventure.
It is from that box that came these two:
The Wood Elf Battalion box contained a surplus of Glade Guard sprues, more than was needed for the units of 16 I had already decided I wanted. I quickly worked out that I would have enough pieces for a full unit of 16 Glade Guard, a small band of 5 Scouts, and then three Glade Guard figures left over. These could easily be made into Characters for a Wood Elf army, and indeed that's what I did with one of them - we'll get to her later. The final two I decided to build as regular archers and put to good use as test models to practice painting on. This was very important, because the Wood Elf model range is one of the most beautiful model lines ever made for Warhammer, which in turn meant that I was absolutely terrified of painting them, because up until then my painting had largely consisted of throwing colour at models until it was impossible to see the undercoat through it. I had almost zero confidence that I would end up doing the sculpts the justice they deserved.
The only thing that kept me going and persuaded me to try was the colour hobby section in the Wood Elf book. It featured these zoomed-in insets of certain parts of the models, which was important because not only did it show me for the first time that the 'Evy Metal studio painters were not, in fact, flawless in their painting, but also through studying them intensely I finally came to understand how highlighting works in paint.
When I finished these two prototypes in April 2013, they represented the very apex of my model painting at the time, and showcased the very bleeding edge in my range of painting skills. They combined my newfound comprehension of highlighting with the precision detailing I had honed on Battlefleet Gothic models in the preceding years. I followed the instructions in the painting guide of the Wood Elf book to the letter, because I loved the GW studio scheme for the Wood Elves and wanted mine to look like that. Granted the greens they were painted in were a far cry from the dark drab browns and greys of the Diablo III Demon Hunters that had brought me to them, but it was a happy change since green is my favourite colour.
They have not exactly aged gracefully, something not helped by their use as a testbed for paint sealing and finishes. The primitive method employed here - a coat of gloss varnish followed by a coat of Lahmian Medium to remove the shine - was never entirely satisfactory and always seemed to leave an unacceptable amount of shine on them even at the best of times, and one of these days I will go back and repair the finish as best as I can with the methods and resources I now have at my disposal. But nonetheless, I was awfully proud of them at the time and they motivated me to keep going with the rest of the army, which only looked better.
And that then, was the beginning of the Meadows of Heaven.