Tag Archives: Reaper

Reverend Mother Mara, Sisterhood of Calucia

For August’s Character of the Month, I chose to do a Paladin.

When Mother Helen, Preceptress of Cobbage, opened her schoolhouse door to find the abandoned infant on her step, she did not hesitate; for Helen had once served the Sisterhood of Calucia, Guardian of Lost Travelers. Though Helen was a sister no longer and the Sisterhood was no more, she took the child in and cared for her as her own daughter; for what was this poor child if not a lost soul? Helen named the child Mara, who grew to be beloved by all in the small village. She was kind, helpful, charitable and humble. She could also lift a bushel of apples at arms’ length by the age of nine; and by fourteen, she could fully drive a fencepost into hard-packed clay with one swing of her hammer.

Despite (or perhaps because of) her great strength, Mara did not lack suitors when she reached the traditional age of marriage two years later; but Mara had no interest in marrying anyone from the village. These were the same boys who were her playmates for the last sixteen years, and she could not see them now as men. Besides, she needed to care for Mother Helen, who had grown infirm with age, and to assume the duties of Preceptress in her stead; for Mara was easily as wise as she was strong, much wiser than a girl of sixteen years should be.

Towards the end of her life, Mother Helen told Mara her own story; how she left the Sisterhood and came to be Preceptress of the small village of Cobbage. Helen was once a novitiate at Glenstrae Abbey, seat of the Sisterhood of Calucia in far-off Dunlaig. The folk of Dunlaig were a superstitious lot who had no use for magic that was not divine, and the Abbess of Glenstrae, Gertrude, was no exception. One dark and moonless night, an elf maiden sought sanctuary at the Abbey. She was in flight from lawless men who wished her harm; yet the Abbess denied her safety. She was fey, after all; and the Abbess decreed that she would find no comfort among the Sisterhood. When they found her body the next morning on the very grounds of the Abbey itself, the Abbess was unmoved. She ordered the corpse buried in the garden, where “at least it would do some good as fertilizer.”

The sisters were in shock. They felt immediately the loss of their Guardian’s favor, for who was more wayward and in need of aid than the poor elf maiden who begged for help and received only scorn? Still, Gertrude was unrepentant and prideful. She would hear no dissent on the matter, though she felt the loss of communion with Calucia more strongly than most.

A fortnight later, the keening started. The elf maiden had risen as a bean sidhe; and she was not done with the Sisterhood of Calucia. Each night for a month she circled the Abbey, keening and wailing; a horrid sight to behold. The sisters pleaded with the Abbess to repent; but Gertrude remained defiant, poisoned by her deep-rooted hatred of all things fey. With no divine magic to hold it at bay, it was only a matter of time before Glenstrae Abbey’s protections failed and the bean sidhe was able to enter what was once consecrated ground. When she did, her unbridled wrath broke fully upon Gertrude most horribly, but left none alive among the Sisterhood.

None but Helen. Cornered by the bean sidhe among the white and silent corpses of her sisters, Helen closed her eyes and called out to Calucia for deliverance. When she opened them, she found the horrid visage of the undead elf mere inches away, staring at her with an expression the young sister couldn’t comprehend. She blinked, and the thing was gone. Mother Helen told Mara she did not know why the creature let her live, if not to tell the tale of what had become of the fallen Sisterhood and of the once-holy Abbey, now fallen to evil and ruin.

Helen died a few nights later. Mara saw to her burial. Over her grave, Mara vowed that she would do what Helen could not. She would atone for the Abbess’s transgressions. She would rebuild Glenstrae Abbey. She would redeem the Sisterhood of Calucia, or she would die in the attempt.

Mara made her intentions known to the village. The blacksmith provided her with armor and a sword; but Mara did not know how to wield a sword; rather, she knew how to swing a hammer. So the smith forged her a hammer instead, a true weapon of war, not a tool for driving fenceposts. Mara accepted it gratefully, and named it “Correction” in honor of the switch Mother Helen occasionally used to chastise pupils who misbehaved.

The road to Dunlaig was long, and Mara encountered many who needed her help along the way. She fixed wagon-wheels for the stranded; planted and plowed for the infirm; defended the weak and powerless; and clothed and fed the needy as best she could, often going without comfort herself. She did this without complaint or recompense as service to the Guardian Calucia in memory of Mother Helen, the woman who cared for her when no one else would.

When she finally reached Glenstrae Abbey, she found it to be a cursed and bleak ruin shunned by all. In the years since the Sisterhood’s destruction others had come here in search of adventure or to loot the valuables of the vaults. All of them perished when the heard the keening wail of the bean sidhe; for the undead creature spared no one foolish enough to willingly enter the Abbey grounds. Now, these cursed souls had risen and become evil things themselves. They surrounded Mara as she strode boldly up to the gates of the Abbey, whispering foul promises of eternal torment; but Mara was unafraid. She shouted her defiance and commanded the undead horde to leave the Abbey, that this would once again be sacred ground. She invoked the name of Calucia, and something wondrous happened.

The undead hordes shrieked in fear and pain. Many of them simply ceased to exist as the power of Mara’s prayer banished their evil forever. Those that remained quailed in fury and terror; but they soon rallied and leapt to the attack. Mara met them head-on with Correction. Within minutes, she was the only thing moving on the grounds of Glenstrae Abbey. The bean sidhe’s minions were utterly destroyed, shattered into oblivion by the holy power of her warhammer.

Mara knelt in prayer and waited. She did not wait long. The restless spirit of the elf maiden appeared, and let out a keening so horrible that Mara felt all of the rage, humiliation and pain of maiden’s death all at once. She could feel the unbridled evil of the scream as a chill upon her soul and knew that she survived only by Calucia’s grace; for it was more than anyone could bear, and Mara knew that all who had heard it before had died on the spot. In the span of one moment, the scream of the bean sidhe aged Mara a full score years; yet Mara, shaken to her core, still stood, somehow alive.

The undead thing rushed at her, furious. Mara did not raise her weapon in defense. She only watched as the hooked claws reached to tear her limb from limb, and she spoke only two words. “I’m sorry.”

The bean sidhe stopped. For a moment, the two women stared at each other; for the undead elf maiden looked then much as she did in life: beautiful and fey. Mara stepped forward and embraced her. The bean sidhe slumped and let out a sigh. Then it vanished.

Mara found herself Abbess of Glenstrae. She spent the next several years rebuilding the convent, doing much of the physical labor herself. She exhumed the bones of the elf maiden and reburied them in a place of honor alongside Mother Helen, whose remains she brought back from Cobbage to rest on Abbey grounds. Her good and charitable deeds regained the favor of Calucia, and the Abbey was soon home to novitiates once more. The Sisterhood of Calucia was born anew.

Reverend Mother Mara is Reaper’s Mother Superior, sculpted by Werner Klocke. I was wondering what miniature I was going to use for a paladin. I seem to have picked up this one in a trade and forgot all about it, which only goes to show that (surprise) I have too many miniatures. She was fun to paint, if not particularly challenging.

Up next: My Season of Scenery submissions! Then on to STAR WARS!!!!!

Sarapen Moonsilver, Druid

For July’s Character of the Month, I chose to do one of my least favorite character classes: the Druid.

Loan the Barkwarden first came upon the girl in a glade deep in the Rowanwood, a basket of mushrooms nearby and a dead fox cradled in her lap. He knew who she was, of course; her silvery-white hair and slightly pointed ears made that much obvious. She was Sarapen, the herbalist’s daughter. That explained the mushrooms; but not the fox. Nor did it explain why the girl was so deep in the wood. No young girl should venture this far into the wild, dark and ancient Rowanwood unaccompanied, for Loan knew of at least a dozen creatures and plants within a stone’s throw that could easily kill her as dead as the fox in her lap. It was unlikely she was lost, though; she seemed unconcerned and unafraid. In fact, she was humming softly.

Sarapen Moonsilver looked up as Loan strode out of the surrounding wood to tower above her. The Barkwarden was huge, a head taller than most men, with tangled brown hair and deep, cobalt blue eyes. His matted and filthy beard hung to his waist, home to all manner of woodland vermin. Various crystals, dried herbs and roots dangled from his tattered robes and from the crooked blackthorn staff he bore. His hands and nails were black with dirt and he stank of the forest. Most children would have screamed and cowered in terror of such a man, but Sarapen Moonsilver did not.

Loan the Barkwarden gazed upon her with blue eyes ablaze. She stared back. “That fox is dead,” he said. The girl nodded. “Did you kill her?”

“No. She was my friend,” said Sarapen Moonsilver. “She was dying and asked me to stay with her.” Gently, she lifted the fox from her lap and lay it down next to her on the grass. She smoothed her skirt, retrieved her basket, and stood.

She shrugged. “It was her time.” Loan watched her in silence. A strange girl to be sure, but nothing simple about her. Suddenly, she gave the Barkwarden a penetrating look. “Are you my father?”

Loan the Barkwarden would have laughed, but it had been so long he had forgotten how to do so. “No,” he said gruffly. “I am not your father, child. Your father was a vain elf stooge named Veril who cared nothing for your mother and cared even less about you, if he knew of you at all.”

If she was hurt by his brutal words, she gave no sign. “You know him?”

“Knew of him, yes. He’s dead now; and no great loss, that. He tried to kill a troll that was minding its own business, simply being a troll. It wanted no trouble, but Veril, pompous ass that he was, decided he would kill the troll, and was killed by it instead.”

“Oh,” said Sarapen Moonsilver.

Loan snorted in derision. “Another fool dead, and never has there been a race more riddled with fools than the elves. Elves live long, and they are the biggest fools of all, because they are fools who think they are wise. In truth, no elf has had a single original thought or come up with a new way of doing anything for thousands of years. What do they do instead? They sit around and sing. How much fucking singing can you do in a thousand years, child?”

Sarapen Moonsilver said she didn’t know.

“Yes, the elves are old,” continued Loan the Barkwarden. “That is why they fear humans, and that is why humans fear elves. And why humans and elves alike fear you.”

“Fear me?” asked Sarapen Moonsilver. “Why should anyone fear me?”

“Because you half-elven, and half-human. You are too much the human for the elves, and too much the elf for the humans. It is no accident you and your mother live apart from both; ignored by the elves while giving out stomach remedies, love potions and hedge-cures for the superstitious folk in the village. Your ears and hair mark you as elvish: fey, magical and exotic, everything humans hate. Your wide hips and strong arms mark you as human: impulsive, brash and new, everything elves despise. Both see in you what they fear the most in each other.”

He had not spoken so many words aloud since before she was born. Loan the Barkwarden turned and walked away into the woods. Sarapen Moonsilver watched him go.

Over the next few years he kept a watchful eye on her secretly, or so he thought at first. She always seemed to sense him, whether he wore his own form or that of a beast or tree of the Rowanwood. She grew to into a beautiful young woman and a fine herbalist in her own right; but it was obvious she was much more than a mere hedge-witch.

Unlike with the fox, Sarapen did weep when, several winters later, it was her mother’s time to die. Sarapen had not encountered Loan the Barkwarden since their first meeting in the clearing years ago; so she was surprised to find him at her mother’s cairn a week after her passing. He had swept the snow from the stone and there was a great number of her mother’s favorite summer flowers and blossoms surrounding the grave. Sarapen knew it was Loan’s magic that caused them to bloom out of season. She knew then, too that Loan the Barkwarden had known her mother well and cared for her in his own way, yet neither had ever spoken of the other.

She approached the old man in the company of her friend and protector, a great bear named Sharn. Loan knew this wise and fierce bear, and he nodded in satisfaction that these two had formed a bond. It meant she was farther along the path than he had realized. He reached out and absently scratched the bear’s muzzle, heedless of any danger; for no creature of the forest held any danger to the Barkwarden of Rowanwood.

“So,” said Loan the Barkwarden, “Your mother’s time of dying has come and gone. You are herbalist now.”

“I suppose that’s true, for now,” she answered. “But it will not soon be so. The trees have spoken to me.”

“What did the trees say, Sarapen Moonsilver?” Loan asked. His voice was uncharacteristically soft. Was she so skilled already?

“They told me that I will be Barkwarden one day,” she said.

“I am the Barkwarden of Rowanwood,” the old man said. “I have been such since many of these trees were saplings.”

“But you will not be forever. All things have their time of dying, Loan.” Sarapen Moonsilver turned from the grave and smiled up at the Grand Druid. “Even you.”

“Yes. Even me.” Loan the Barkwarden nodded, his own smile lost in his great beard.

He suddenly remembered how to laugh.

Sarapen Moonsilver is Reaper’s Juliana, Herbalist; a new sculpt by Bobby Jackson from the Reaper Bones Black line.

As soon as I looked at this miniature I knew I wanted to paint her hair white, so I thought that should be the most striking part of the model, not her clothing. I opted to paint her in subdued colors, in simple clothes that a woman who walks through the forest foraging for herbs and mushrooms would likely wear. Once again, I knew I was going to do a lot of base-work on this one, so I thought her plain clothing would also contrast well with all the color on the base.

I can’t resist using this Vallejo Water Effect stuff since Roger introduced me to it, so I sculpted a pool of water for her to kneel by. I used some railroad-scale flowering bushes to finish it off, and I think it looks pretty darn good.

Fun fact if you want to use this Vallejo stuff: it interacts poorly with super glue. I know this because I was applying drops to the base to affix the flowers, when I discovered there was a little bit of air in the glue nozzle. It spit a small glob of glue directly onto my perfect, shiny and pristine water effect that I had spent two days waiting to dry. Five minutes later, the water effect was clouded and the glue had encapsulated. I had to take it out with a pair of tweezers; but it continued to react to the water effect for about 10 minutes.

My name is The Angry Piper, so can probably guess how I reacted to this development. Afterwards, I applied another layer of the water effect. It seems to be ok now. As am I.

Coming soon, in no particular order: another Battle Report, this time for some Super Mission Force; but don’t worry. The Green Hornet and Kato will return soon…

Also, it’s the Season of Scenery over at Dave Stone’s place; and I ain’t done shit yet. I have a bunch of small pieces I want to get done this year. Things that have been sitting undone for far too long.

And finally, I’m almost done with my Aliens: Another Glorious Day in the Corps miniatures. Once they’re done I will, of course, post them here. Then it’s on to Imperial Assault; if for no reason than to justify my crazed purchases of that discontinued franchise.

Forgotten Heroes 2021: The Crimson Hound

Visitors to Dead Dick’s Tavern may recall me lamenting the fact that I don’t get to play many games any more, especially roleplaying games. Since I opened an Instagram account about a year ago, I’ve met some pretty cool hobbyists and gamers, many of whom live much too far away from me for us to ever be able to sit around the same table. Because of remote play during the COVID pandemic, that hasn’t been as much of an obstacle, and I’ve been able to get some gaming in with some very cool people.

One of them, my friend Bruno, has a YouTube channel called The Chronicles of the Crimson Hound, and through this, he has come up with something truly ingenious that all but guarantees he gets to play a ton of games. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t envy the guy.

Bruno created a character: the Crimson Hound, a vampiric vigilante super hero in a cyberpunk-style city. Bruno’s brilliance is that he gets other people to GM games for the Crimson Hound, using whatever rules system and running whatever story they like; then he puts the game sessions up on YouTube. So far, the folks running the games have mostly been gamers who have websites and podcasts of their own; so viewers get to see a variety of game mastering styles and get a feel for diverse methods of storytelling and gaming. The serials are broken down into sessions of about 15 minutes each, so they’re great to listen to while you’re…oh, say, cooking dinner or painting miniatures. Check them out!

Anyway, Bruno asked me to GM a game for the Crimson Hound, which made me feel immensely flattered. Run a game for a vampiric vigilante in a pulp/cyberpunk setting? Yes, please! On YouTube? No, thank you. Some folks, like Bruno, are handsome and charismatic enough to be on YouTube. Others, like me, are far too handsome for YouTube but lack any charisma whatsoever. Sad, but true.

Still, I felt bad because Bruno was kind enough to playtest one of my Call of Cthulhu adventures that I am planning to submit to the Miskatonic Repository. In other words, when I asked, he said yes; while when he asked, I declined. Kind of a dick move on my part. (See? No charisma.)

So, as a way to say thanks, I decided to immortalize Bruno’s creation, The Crimson Hound, for Forgotten Heroes. The Crimson Hound isn’t “forgotten”, of course; his legend is only just beginning! But this challenge gave me all the excuse I needed to practice my green stuff kung-fu. (Special thanks to Dave from Wargames Terrain Workshop for the quick assist in answering my noob sculptor questions.) Besides, Carrion Crow is usually pretty lenient when it comes to enforcing the rules.

The base miniature was Captain Griffon, by Reaper, from their Chronoscope line. (If I remember right, Bruno wanted to use this miniature himself for the Hound, once upon a time.) I couldn’t find anything better in my rather extensive pile of Heroclix. I had considered using a Robin miniature as a base, but I picture the Hound is bigger (and cooler) than Robin.

In his single-minded pursuit of vigilante justice, the Crimson Hound has used stun batons, handguns and even an enchanted short sword. I considered giving him one or more of these, but in the end I decided just to stick with his bare hands. The Hound is a brute, after all. He’s not too subtle when it comes to kicking ass.

I added some green stuff to bulk out his shoulders and his collar, and sculpted his mask and his knee pads. Then I let him dry and sanded him down with an emery board, because Dave said to.

Of course, unbeknownst to Bruno, while I was IN THE MIDDLE OF sculpting and painting the Crimson Hound, Bruno put up a new Instagram post, showing the Hound’s upcoming NEW COSTUME. In other words, not this one anymore.

D’oh!

Here he is, all painted up. I tried to be as faithful to the top picture as I could, but there was no way in hell I was going to even attempt that belt. It’s way beyond my green stuff skillz. As it is, looks like I could have done a better job sanding him down. Hope you like him, Bruno!

Here’s a funny little anecdote: for my final touch, I decided to give the red parts of the costume a light wash of Citadel’s Bloodletter glaze, which really does a good job of highlighting and tying together the different shades of red. It was supposed to be the very last thing I did, but shortly after the application, I noticed a bunch of mysterious white spots all over the model, wherever I put the Bloodletter. Seems my glaze went bad somehow, and I had to redo all the red. Isn’t that funny? Ha ha ha.

Ha.

That’s probably it for my Forgotten Heroes submissions this year, although I could still pull something out last minute. Stranger things have happened. In the meantime, I will continue to watch the other participants with great interest!

Forgotten Heroes 2021: Grips

Back in 1986, a small comics company called Silver Wolf Comics put out a handful of black and white titles. The company was owned by Kris Silver, who also created and wrote most of the comics. One of those comics was Grips.

Grips is a “hero” who kills criminals because he’s a psycho himself. He gets off on giving and receiving pain and can will himself into a murderous rage. When he’s not doing the psychotic murderous vigilante thing, Grips likes long walks on the beach and candlelit dinners. He’s also a comic book artist; the artist of Fat Ninja, which was another Silver Wolf comic of the time. But mostly he’s all about killing and maiming bad guys in bloody and vicious ways.

He has long blades that slide out of his forearms that he uses to eviscerate people, like so:

He also shoots little projectile spiky things out of his gloves, like so:

And he uses a pair of spring-loaded tonfa when he feels like beating people’s brains in instead of gutting them, like so:

And he fucking LOVES IT.

When I was in high school, I thought this shit was AWESOME. Looking at it now (something I haven’t done since high school), I realize it is not awesome.

The first Grips comic lasted only 4 issues (I have 1-3). While researching this, I was surprised to find it came back for a second series a few years later, but that one only lasted 5 issues. Sprinkle in a very few appearances in other titles, and that’s about it. Grips would pretty much define the term “Forgotten Hero”, if he wasn’t notable because his book featured art by Tim Vigil. Vigil would later go on to draw Faust (the comic that he is most famous for), which showcases truly shocking levels of violence and hardcore pornography. If I recall correctly, Faust shows lots of graphic sex (consensual and not-so-consensual) with demons, and orgies with lots of blood and other bodily fluids. Not my cup of tea, but YMMV.

Anyway, this is the miniature I used for Grips. He’s Zenith, Superhero; from Reaper’s Chronoscope line. He’s meant to be a speedster, methinks.

First thing I’d need is some blades. I thought of using tines from a plastic fork, but these proved too thick. I ended up cutting them out of some plasticard (actually my expired health insurance card) instead.

Next I used some green stuff to fashion his gauntlets, epaulets, belt and mask. I made sure to include the capsules for his spring-loaded tonfa on his belt.

Then I painted him. I painted the brown parts of his costume GW’s Doombull Brown, then gave them a generous wash of Nuln Oil and highlighted with Coat D’Arms Rat Brown. The black was painted black (surprise!), then highlighted with Vallejo Heavy Charcoal. The belt and gauntlets were painted GW Gehenna Gold and highlighted with Vallejo Gold, while the blades were GW Canoptek Alloy, highlighted with GW Mithril Silver.

I actually kind of like the way he looks. Maybe I’ll use him in a game of Super Mission Force. It’s been too long.

I will have one more Forgotten Heroes submission between now and July. Until then, I’ll be watching to see what everyone else does!

Berjotr Skaldisson, Monster Slayer

For June’s Character of the Month, I decided to do a Barbarian.

From the night Berjotr Skaldisson was born, it was assumed he would follow in the footsteps of his father Gilvi and become a skald; but by the time he reached his tenth winter, it became apparent that Berjotr had no skill for it. He could not sing, nor could he compose poetry. He could not remember the lineage of his own Jarl, never mind the lines of the Kings of Old. Berjotr could not so much as keep time with a drum while his father sang. He was a disappointment, that was certain; the son of a skald who had none of his father’s skill. But before long, Berjotr Skaldisson discovered where his true skills lay: he was very strong, and he was very good at killing things.

The Winter of Despair is remembered well by the people of Thord. Many died that year, not as warriors, but of starvation; for the summer raiding parties had not returned with plunder enough to last beyond the first snows. To make matters worse, that was the winter of Vargyr, the Great Bear; who devoured livestock and men equally and had no fear of Jarl Hranulf’s warriors.

One night, one of Hranulf’s thanes burst into the hall, bloodied and raving. He told of how Vargyr the Great Bear had devoured his family, after first crashing through the heavy oak door of his house. The warrior had no chance to even fetch his sword before the bear was upon them. He was lucky to escape at all. While the Jarl’s men listened to the thane’s tale in fear and awe, young Berjotr took up a greataxe and quietly left the mead hall. He set out into the cold darkness, pausing only long enough to retrieve two things from a nearby hut: a shovel and a young pig. When he judged himself far enough away from Hranulf’s hall, Berjotr used the shovel to dig a shallow ditch in the frozen ground, big enough for him to lie in. Then he used his greataxe to kill the pig, splitting its body in twain. He pulled the bloody corpse of the pig over him as he lay in the ditch and waited. Vargyr scented the kill and came before the pig’s blood had time to freeze. As the beast began to drag the pig’s corpse away, Berjotr sprang up and–in the time it takes for a man to draw a single breath–killed Vargyr, the Great Bear. The beast didn’t even have time to bellow in pain.

Thus Berjotr, son of Gilvi, decided that if he could not sing the songs of the skalds, he would instead give them songs to sing.

In his twelfth winter, already bigger and stronger than any of Hranulf’s warriors, Berjotr hunted and killed a pair of mated Thunderwyrms. The year after, he killed a snow spider that had built a nest too close to the settlement. Jarl Hranulf began to worry for his throne as Berjotr Skaldisson’s legend began to grow, so Hranulf sent the boy south with raiding parties for the next three years in the hopes he would not come back. Always Berjotr returned.

Unlike the others, Berjotr did not enjoy raiding. He felt always apart from his fellows and though he fought beside them, he called no man friend. He cared nothing for loot. He killed men easily enough, but his heart wasn’t in it. After three years of raiding, he decided he would go no more. He craved more of a challenge than plundering villages could provide, and besides, the longboats made him seasick.

The raiding party returned to Thord to find Hranulf’s mead hall destroyed, the Jarl dead, and most of the villagers gone; taken by trolls several weeks earlier. Berjotr followed the trolls’ trail into the mountains, entered their cave lair, rescued what remained of the villagers, and killed every male, female and young troll he found. Over several more years, he killed countless ogres, serpents, wolves, draugr, tree-men, cold ones, ice toads, and of course, men; for Berjotr Skaldisson’s legend had grown, and always there were those foolish enough to believe the legends untrue. There seemed to be nothing and no one Berjotr Skaldisson could not kill.

Berjotr was known throughout Thord by the time songs of his deeds finally reached the ears of the ice giant Brynnga, who flew to the settlement on his great frost dragon, Orl. From high above the mead hall, the enraged Brynnga bellowed his challenge to Berjotr Skaldisson: meet him in battle or he would lay waste to the hall and slay all the people within. So, Berjotr took up his greataxe once again and strode out to meet the giant, wearing the skin of Vargyr, the Great Bear he killed in the Winter of Despair.

Striding fearlessly into the plumes of Orl’s icy breath, Berjotr killed the dragon. Then, one arm frozen to his side and half his face burned black with frostbite, he killed the giant.

The people of Thord wanted Berjotr to be Jarl, but Berjotr had no interest in sitting in a mead hall while his warriors brought him treasure. Likewise he had no interest settling down and taking a wife. Although he swore he was finished with raiding, he did embark on a longboat once again, this time for lands unknown; for by the age of twenty-one, Berjotr Skaldisson had killed everything he could kill in Thord, and the skalds were hoarse from singing the songs of his deeds. It was time for him to move on.

Berjotr Skaldisson is Reaper’s “Barbarian Axeman of Icingstead” (14620), from their Warlord line. While the backstory is different and the miniature no doubt looks nothing like what he imagines, this Character of the Month is based loosely on my friend’s character in our current D&D 5E game.

Monster May(hem) 2021: Blacksting, Wyvern

This is one of Owen’s miniatures: Blacksting, the Wyvern; from Reaper. It’s all metal and retails for $34.99 nowadays, but Owen bought it years ago when metal was much cheaper. It’s a very early Reaper miniature sculpted by Kevin Contos.

I don’t even like it, and I would never have purchased it myself. Not to shit all over Kevin Contos’s sculpting. It’s fine. It’s just a weird pose, and I hate miniatures with bases like this. They look stupid in my opinion, which means I have to change them, which means more work for me.

Of course, I’m not painting Blacksting for me. Not really. I’m painting it for Monster May(hem), and I’m painting it in my continued effort to entreat Owen into taking his pile of lead back and returning to the hobby. I’ve tried this before and met with failure; but since Owen had already assembled this beastie years ago, and it IS Monster May(hem), I decided to go ahead with it.

Fingers crossed.

The first thing was to do something about this stupid base, so I decided to go scenic and made it even bigger. I decided this wyvern was hanging out in a swamp, so I used most of what was left of the Model Magic and sculpted some pools, then I stuck some rocks into the Model Magic and let it dry. After that I primed the whole shebang with some Vallejo black surface primer.

I had some plastic foliage I use for big terrain pieces. I figured I could add some to the base after I primed it black and highlighted it with sickly green. Seems to have worked out ok (see below).

Here’s the finished product. I went with a fairly simple blue-black color scheme. The wings were a pain. They’re pretty flat and not very well textured, so highlighting them was not easy and I think it shows. (This is an early Reaper miniature, for better or worse.)

I wrapped the rock he’s squatting on in Army Painter Poison Ivy, and used the plastic foliage as swamp weeds. I used some Vallejo water effects mixed with craft paint for the pools of swamp water. This stuff is awesome! Roger introduced me to it, and I used it last year in Dave’s Summer of Scenery challenge when I did my Sludge Pool. I still had some left over so I used it!

I put a dab of model glue on his stinger, to make it look like it’s dripping venom.

The one thing I’m not wild about is the eyes. I wanted some colors to contrast sharply with the black-blue of Blacksting himself, but I’m not sure I got the effect I wanted. He has yellow orbs with orange irises and a black slit for a pupil. I considered painting them green. Maybe I’ll revisit the eyes at some point, but TBH I’m glad he’s done and I never really wanted to paint him anyway…so maybe not.

Monster Mayhem was amazing this year, with more participants and more submissions than ever before. Thanks so much to everyone who took part and who helped encourage other hobbyists in our community. You guys are an inspiration and I continue to be in awe of the talent and support you all exhibit. What started as a personal challenge several years ago has grown into something I hope to continue every year!

Once more, here is the blogroll:

Roger from Rantings from Under the Wargames Table returned and did some Prehistoric Cats, then sculpted a horrible Creeping Eye named S’eye’mon (in honor of Blax the Kleric)! It’s all painted now and I can think of a dozen uses for it for all kinds of games; including running a scenario based on the 1958 movie that inspired Roger: The Trollenberg Terror!

Dave from Wargames Terrain Workshop went full-on “Galaxy Far, Far Away” this year and sculpted a Krayt Dragon, Joopa, some Denizens of Jabba’s Palace, and a Wort (that big Tatooine toad!). His sculpting and painting are truly awesome. Wonderful work, Dave!

Carrion Crow also came back this year and did a Wendigo miniature from ParagonStar, and it looks creepy as hell. Definitely not something you want to see in your headlights on a winter’s night…

Matt from PM Painting really went all-out this month, using Monster May(hem) as an excuse to crank out a ton of miniatures from the Cthulhu: Death May Die board game: an Elder Thing, a Shoggoth, a Byakhee, some Ghouls and Deep Ones, a Star-Spawn of Cthulhu , some Hunting Horrors, a CthonianYog-Sothoth, some Fire Vampires, Cthulhu and some Cultists, the Dunwich Horror himself, Wilbur Whately, and he even managed to get a start on the King in Yellow, Hastur! Sadly, Matt went incurably insane; but way to bring it, Matt!

In addition to the usual suspects above, it was great to welcome some new participants this year.

A newcomer to the Monster May(hem) challenge (but definitely not to the blogosphere), Azazel painted a Coral Golem, an Umber Hulk; a Sand Kraken, a Harbinger and some Void Hounds from Shadows of Brimstone; and his own Balor demon. Then went Mesozoic on us and did a Dire Crocodile, A Raptor Pack and two more dinosaurs: a Carnotaurus and a Hornslasher. Then, just to show us he could, he did a Carrion Crawler, some Goliaths, and to finish things up, a T-Rex! Talk about a debut! A truly astounding output for one month, and some marvelous painting!

Azazel and Matt, I can’t keep up! You guys put me to shame!

Another first-timer, Tom from The Good Ground painted a Red Slaad, a (new to me) creepy cryptid named Siren Head, and a Balor Demon! Not bad for your first painting challenge, Tom! I’ll warn you: it gets addictive!

The man, the myth, the legend! Mark A. Morin jumped in this year and promptly redefined the word “monster”. He painted two scary structures: an Aztec Temple Sacrificial Altar; and a High Throne! Welcome, Mark! Come back next year!

Mike, aka @sasquatchminis from Instagram, couldn’t make it this year after all; but his IG account is awesome and he’s a friend. So check out his stuff forthwith!

That’s an end to Monster May(hem) 2021 (unless Azazel or Matt has another submission I didn’t see yet). No time to rest! Tomorrow is June, and that means it’s all about Carrion Crow and his annual Forgotten Heroes challenge! I look forward to this challenge every year; and although I might not be as prolific this time around, I’ll have two submissions for sure. If you want to take part, just let the Crow know. He’s pretty cool about that!

Thanks once again to everyone who made Monster May(hem) so much fun this year!

Monster May(hem) 2021: The Baba Yaga

Lately I have become fascinated with the many tales of The Baba Yaga. I’m not sure why. I have no Slavic or Russian heritage of which I am aware; and I’m not particularly into folklore. In fact, the first I ever heard of the Baba Yaga was in the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Dungeon Master’s Guide, by Gary Gygax; in which her Dancing Hut appeared as an artifact of great power. For many years, this was all I knew of her. She was a witch. She had a hut. It walked around on chicken legs, and it was much bigger on the inside than on the outside.

The Baba Yaga featured prominently in the backstory of last month’s Character of the Month, Doval Lakatos, right around the time I became aware that Reaper miniatures makes a Baba Yaga’s Hut kit in the Bones Black line. It retails for $60.00, which is pretty fucking steep considering it does not include the Baba Yaga herself. (She’s a metal miniature sold separately.) I did not pay the 60 bucks; I paid a third of that on eBay from a guy who must have bought it, assembled it and then decided it was too much of a pain in the ass to deal with. I sympathize. It IS a pain in the ass, that’s for sure. I have some significant problems with this model.

First, it doesn’t stand up straight. When assembled the house leans so far forward you can’t see the front, and the chicken legs don’t sit level. I assumed this was because the guy I bought it from assembled it incorrectly, but that’s not the case. A quick look online shows that that’s how it’s supposed to look. Well, I wasn’t having that. I figured I would sculpt a base so the hut could stand up. Normally I use Magic Sculpt for that, but on a base this size, that’s a lot of Magic Sculpt, and it’s not cheap. I needed another solution.

This is Crayola Model Magic. It’s kind of like clay, but it’s spongy and a little weird. It comes in different colors (which doesn’t matter since I was going to paint over it anyway) and dries without baking. I picked up this package at the dollar store for a dollar (surprise) and smeared it all over a square base big enough to fit the hut, let it dry partially; then stood the hut into the stuff, creating these footprints. Then I let it dry fully. It cracked a little, so I filled the crack with some Magic Sculpt.

As you can see, it stands up just fine now, and it fits so snugly I don’t even need to glue it down. Being able to remove it allowed me easy access to work on the base, so that’s what I did; coating it with craft paint and sand, adding a Nolzur’s wood pile, a campfire from Johnny Borg and a stump sculpted from leftover Magic Sculpt.

With the base out of the way, I was free to concentrate on the hut. I’ve seen some pretty amazing paintjobs on this kit over on Instagram; one in particular by @lyresforhire is really cool with the light streaming out from the windows and cracks in the door. But I wanted the hut to look abandoned and run-down; the kind of place a hag would live.

I decided on a pretty straightforward brownish-gray to represent the weathering of the wood slats and shingles. I used mostly craft paint. I added a little green here and there to represent the damp mold and fungus that has taken root in the wood. I painted the glass panes a few shades of gray before giving them a final highlight of white.

The chicken legs were based in GW’s XV-88, then highlighted with some Tau Light Ochre before a final highlight of Golden Yellow. Believe it or not, I had a hard time deciding how to paint the legs. I found out way more than I ever thought I would about chicken legs while researching this. Turns out they come in all kinds of colors.

So, what are my other problems with the hut? Well, I’m not an expert on her by any means, but I have read a fair bit about the Baba Yaga and her hut; and this doesn’t look like Baba Yaga’s hut. This looks more like Baba Yaga’s dilapidated condo. In traditional folkore, Baba Yaga’s hut is circular, about 10-15 feet in diameter (on the outside), and has no windows or doors (unless she wants it to). This thing here has eleven windows, two doors, a side porch with an enclosed balcony, a cupola and front steps. That’s some hut!

Finally, the kit comes with a skeleton in a cage that I didn’t use. I gather it’s supposed to hang from the eave to the right (our view) of the door. The problem is the scale. The skeleton in the cage is so big that if he was standing up straight he’d be significantly taller than the front door of the hut. I opted not to use it, and I forgot to take a picture. You can see it online if you care to look for it.

What about the hag herself? The Baba Yaga miniature is ok. Baba Yaga is often described as an ogress, so the miniature seems a bit small to me. When she’s not in her hut, she flies around in a magical mortar she steers with a pestle. It might have been nice to have that instead of a skull-headed broom and a bundle of sticks.

Anyway, now you can see why I couldn’t very well tell Mark A. Morin that his sacrificial temple didn’t count as a monster when I planned on submitting a house on chicken legs myself!

Monster May(hem) has been HUGE this year and there are still 9 days left! Here is the blogroll:

Matt from PM Painting continues to dominate the submission list. So far he’s done a ton of miniatures from the Cthulhu: Death May Die board game: an Elder Thing, a Shoggoth, a Byakhee, some Ghouls and Deep Ones, a Star-Spawn of Cthulhu , some Hunting Horrors, a Cthonian, Yog-Sothoth itself, and some Fire Vampires! The man is unstoppable!

Roger from Rantings from Under the Wargames Table did some Prehistoric Cats, then sculpted a horrible Creeping Eye from a 1958 horror film! If you want to see how to sculpt a monster from a ping-pong ball and Roger’s trademarked “support sausages”, check it out! Can’t wait to see it painted!

Carrion Crow has started his Wendigo miniature from ParagonStar, and he may just change my opinion of 3D printed models!

Dave from Wargames Terrain Workshop sculpted a Krayt Dragon (seen on The Mandalorian) and a Joopa (from Star Wars: rebels) from scratch and painted them both. Guys like Roger and Dave who scratch-sculpt their own stuff really blow me away. Fantastic work!

Azazel painted a Coral Golem, an Umber Hulk, a Sand Kraken and a Harbinger (truly terrifying beasts from Shadows of Brimstone), and a Balor demon! Azazel’s painting is out of this world.

Tom from The Good Ground has jumped in this year and painted a Red Slaad and Siren Head, a cryptid I’d never heard of before! Tom’s just kicking his new blog off, so drop by if you haven’t done so already!

As stated before, Mark A. Morin painted this amazing Aztec Temple Sacrificial Altar; and now he’s added another terrible monstrous Aztec structure: the High Throne! Mark’s hobby project focus is the stuff of legend; the dude never seems to get distracted by anything else. Check out his current Aztec project on his blog!

I’m hoping to get one more miniature done before the end, but it’s also a big one with a lot of base work. At least I found a use for the rest of the Model Magic!

Darl Mandos, “Mandos the Magnificent”; and a Monster May(hem) Update!

Unlike most of those taking part (see below), I’ve been making slow progress on my Monster May(hem) projects this month. I recently hit a wall where I’m doing more staring than painting, so to give myself a kickstart I decided to crank out my Character of the Month for May. This month I decided to do a sorcerer.

(If you don’t care about my sorcerer and are just here for Monster May(hem), scroll down below.)

Even as a youth, Darl Mandos always stood out among the citizens of Snakehollow; renowned as the fattest and laziest halfling any of the village elders could recall. Darl’s appetite and corresponding gluttony was already legendary by the time he reached the age of 55, the so-called prime of his life. There seemed to be nothing he would not eat or drink if it was offered (and often when it was not); nor would he stop until every last morsel was gone. “Enough” was not a word that Darl Mandos ever understood.

When not eating, he was content to while away his days doing nothing, sleeping, or looking for more food. Although he was tolerated by the folk of Snakehollow he pushed the limits of their hospitality on more than one occasion. It turns out that there is such thing as a Halfling who eats too much and does too little, after all.

Put simply, Darl didn’t feel he should do anything he didn’t enjoy. He didn’t enjoy farming. He didn’t enjoy brewing. He didn’t enjoy baking. He DID enjoy meats and vegetables, good beer and fresh bread and pies, though; so he decided he would occupy his time with eating, along with his beloved companion and the one thing able to eat just as much as Darl Mandos: his goat, Mingo.

Darl would have lived a life remarkable only for its idleness had not Tom the Winker moved into a farm on the outskirst of Snakehollow. Tom the Winker was a miserable sort who rebuffed all attempts at friendship and good-neighborly-ness. He got his nickname among the halflings of Snakehollow because of his seemingly uncontrollable habit of winking, a tic he picked up, unbeknownst to them, because a mule he was beating decided to beat back. When Mingo wandered onto his land, Tom the Winker took that to mean Mingo was now his property. He threw the goat into a pen and promptly forgot all about it.

Mingo was likely to starve before he was butchered by Tom the Winker; but, much to the amazement of the people of Snakehollow, Darl Mandos decided to do something he had never even considered before in his life. He decided to act.

When Tom the Winker saw the obese halfling on his doorstep, he laughed aloud. When Darl asked politely for the return of his friend, Mingo, Tom the Winker grabbed a threshing flail and shook it in Darl’s face, threatening to use it on him if he didn’t leave immediately. That’s the last thing Tom the Winker remembers about the encounter. When he awoke from a peaceful slumber several hours later, he found Mingo gone. He also found the half-wheel of cheese that was in his sideboard missing, along with half a dozen eggs and a smoked ham.

The residents of Snakehollow expected Darl to return from Tom the Winker’s farm bruised, bloodied and without a goat. Instead, they discovered something about Darl that he already knew about himself. Darl Mandos was a sorcerer, born with an innate talent for magic. Through magic, he was able to put people to sleep and produce other effects as well, such as opening locked pantry doors and entrances to preserve cellars. While Darl found his abilities more convenient than, say, finding a key first; he didn’t like to use them overmuch because doing so required effort.

Since the folk of Snakehollow learned of Darl’s talents, he has become of service to his people, whether he likes it or not. In truth, he has warmed to his role a bit. He likes to yell things like “Presto!” and “Alakazam!” whenever he pulls off a big spell.

Darl’s familiar is the enormous goat named Mingo who is much like his master: fat, well-fed, good-natured and somewhat lazy. Mingo takes frequent naps.  Most afternoons, Darl joins Mingo if he has nothing else to do (and he rarely does). Darl accepts payment for his magical services in baked goods and beer. He doesn’t want to go adventuring (too much effort); but he does enjoy the feeling that he is contributing something to his community for a change.

The miniature I used for Darl Mandos is Reaper’s Del Brairberry, Halfling Wizard; sculpted by Glenn Harris. The Carrion Crawler is a previous Monster May(hem) submission by Nolzur’s Marvelous Miniatures, painted in 2019.

Just because I’m dragging ass this month doesn’t mean everyone else is. There are some truly awesome Monster May(hem) submissions already, with more to come. Here’s the blogroll!

And here are some links to the submissions so far!

Matt from PM Painting has outdone us all so far. He got his hands on Cthulhu: Death May Die and has used Monster May(hem) as an excuse to plow through the awesome miniatures in the game! Good on you, Matt! So far he’s done an Elder Thing, a Shoggoth, a Byakhee, some Ghouls and Deep Ones, and a Star-Spawn of Cthulhu! No way does Matt have all his Sanity anymore; you can paint that many blasphemous horrors and not expect a rubber room in your future!

Roger from Rantings from Under the Wargames Table has jumped in with two Prehistoric Cats, with a possible scratch-build to come! (I love that guy!)

The dread Carrion Crow has started his submission, and all I can say is…“WEN-DIIIIII-GOOOOO!” Happy to see the Crow is back!

Dave from Wargames Terrain Workshop sculpted a Krayt Dragon (seen on The Mandalorian) from scratch and painted it, and man, does it look awesome! You continue to amaze me, Dave!

Azazel is KILLING IT!! He painted a Coral Golem, an Umber Hulk and a Sand Kraken (which is a truly terrifying beast from Shadows of Brimstone)!! HIs painting skills are insaaaane!!!

Tom (no relation to Tom the Winker; wink, wink) from The Good Ground has jumped in this year and painted a Red Slaad! Tom’s the only person I “met” on Instagram who already knew me from this blog, so I’m thrilled he’s on board this year! (To my knowledge, he has never beaten a mule.)

Mark A. Morin painted this amazing Aztec Temple Sacrificial Altar! I know, it’s not technically a monster; but Mark asked if he could include it and it looks so great I couldn’t say no! (Plus, I’d be a hypocrite if I said HIS building doesn’t count as a monster…stay tuned to see why…) Check out Mark’s Aztec project he’s been plugging away at; it’s truly inspiring!

You guys are putting me to shame with the quality and frequency of your submissions. I haven’t had a chance to swing by your respective blogs long enough to leave comments, but I’ll be there shortly! Thanks again for making this so much fun!

Raphinfel, “The Adored”

My “Character of the Month” for March isn’t MY character at all. Raphinfel, “The Adored”, is the creation of Jon, producer and creator of the brilliant Tale of the Manticore podcast, which you should all be listening to. As such, Raphinfel’s story isn’t mine to tell, so apologies in advance for those expecting my customary prose. You can hear it for yourself by checking out Tale of the Manticore: 31 short episodes and counting, all really good.

Unless I’m completely missing the point, I can say with a fair degree of certainty that Raphinfel is a wizard. Not the good kind of wizard. The other kind.

The miniature I used is Lamann, Sorcerer (02807), by Reaper Miniatures, sculpted by James van Shaik; but as I said, Raphinfel is a Wizard (actually called a Magic-User in Basic Dungeons & Dragons), not to be confused with the “official” D&D Sorcerer class, which will get its own “Character of the Month” at some point.

Although I’m pretty happy with how he turned out (and hope Jon is, too), this miniature would be a perfect miniature to display some Object Source Lighting (OSL) techniques as that crystal ball is begging for it. But I suck at that, and I wanted Raphinfel to look good, not sucky. Maybe if I wasn’t on a timetable I would be more inclined to mess around, but to be honest I’m a coward when it comes to risking the work I’ve already put into a model.

I haven’t decided what class will be featured next month yet. In the meantime, Imperial Rebel Ork has put out a call for hobbyists to display their geeky T-Shirts this month. Although I have far too many to display, here are a couple I’m proud of.

I bought this at Gen-Con in 2012, and to be honest I forgot I had it. It recently resurfaced from the depths of my dresser. While I was disappointed by Cloverfield, I have never been disappointed by my old furry pal, Grover. (He’s the Monster at the End of this Book, after all.)

Next, This T-shirt just arrived yesterday, all the way from Ireland, which is why it’s so wrinkled from the long trip over the water. It should come as no surprise to any who regularly visit this site that I would be powerless to resist the Vitruvian Dwarf, made by Quertee, purveyor of limited edition T-shirt designs. I am trying desperately not to give in and buy their “Surf Arrakis” and “Let’s Summon Demons” shirts. I’m managing.

So far.

Anyway, this fulfills my Character of the Month resolution with weeks to spare, unlike last month. New post soon!

Aramise Del’Arco; Arbiter of Disputes

Well, I’m not off to a good start with my 2021 Resolutions. I’m already a month behind on my Character of the Month. For Fem-bruary’s character I chose a to paint a fighter; and here she is, better late than never. Nevertheless, being late doesn’t get me off the hook for another character this month, so watch this space for my official submission for March. In the meantime, this miniature is Rhaine, Rogue; from Reaper Miniatures, sculpted by Werner Klocke. At least, that’s what she’s called now. My blister said “Rhaine, Duelist”; so I decided to stick with that concept for her backstory.

Among the rich and powerful nobility of Evalaux, disputes are often settled at swordspoint. Despite this, most nobles barely know which end of a dueling saber or pistol to hold, never mind how to employ one for its intended purpose. The richest noble houses have fencing masters on staff, ready at a moment’s notice to avenge an insult or satisfy the slighted feelings of their patrons. If, however, yours is not one of the richest houses; or if you have recently suffered the inconvenient (yet permanent) loss of a fencing master due to poor job performance, then you must hire one; else be at the mercy of the social jabs and thrusts of the aristocracy.

Aramise Del’Arco is the most sought-after duelist in Evalaux. She has been offered fencing master positions at the most prestigious and wealthy houses; positions she has declined. Some of the masters of these houses saw her refusal as an insult and made the poor decision to hire a duelist of their own to seek redress. Aramise Del’Arco killed every one without compassion or apology. Thus, the nobility of Evalaux must content themselves with never having the best duelist under permanent retainer; and they must fear that Aramise Del’Arco may one day show up on their own doorstep in the employ of a rival.

Aramise Del’Arco does not work solely for the nobility. In the crowded streets and back alleys of Evalaux, crime lords, cults and other nefarious organizations have all used her talents. Provided you can afford her, Aramise Del’Arco is for hire. But be certain you pay the bill when it comes due.

You may ask why. An illustrative example: before he was known as “No-Nose, One-Eared, One-Eyed Rickard”, Rickard the Butcher was a man to be feared in the dark underworld of Evalaux. When he decided to send three bravos after Aramise Del’Arco rather than pay her fee for her elimination of a rival, Aramise Del’Arco gave him the visually-appropriate nickname he enjoys at present.

As for the bravos, they didn’t get nicknames. They just got dead, and Aramise Del’Arco got her money.

Aramise Del’Arco is a mystery. No fencing master in Evalaux can say she was their pupil or their classmate. No one knows where she came from or how she became so skilled with a blade. All that is known about her is that she is quite possibly the finest swordswoman alive; and that she will work for anyone who meets her price. Once hired, she will work until the terms of the contract have been fulfilled. She cannot be bought off or bribed; but make no mistake: she is no assassin. If an opponent dies in the course of a lawful duel, then so be it; but she will not murder for hire, and sad indeed is the person who would make the mistake of assuming so.

I instantly fell in love with the “unofficial” duelist character class when I saw it collected in Best of The Dragon (magazine) Vol. 4, and promptly made one of my longest-running AD&D characters ever: a half-elf duelist who constantly found himself embroiled in political games with players much bigger than he. I used him as an inspiration for this Character of the Month.

Check back soon for March’s submission!