Long and arduous was the pilgrimage back over the roof of the world yet the Cult tired not. From the blasted pit they had clambered, up in to the heavens, and now they descended once more, down through the dark pine forests that bristled on the beetled brow of the World's Edge Mountains. Glowering over the huddled and sagging gambrel rooves of witch-haunted Nachtdorf, these stony pinnacles gave way to the dreary vista of ancient and festering Sylvania - far removed from the pitiless sands of the wasteland they had dragged themselves from. Man and Beast alike rejoiced at the chill air and damp mists of these heavily wooded slopes, for they were a balm to parched lips and blistered hands and feet. Slowly the weary procession began its painful descent back in to the lands of Men once more.
The journey had been unopposed by the non-believer so far. In the depths of the night they had skirted round the forbidding walls of the Slayer Keep at Karak Kadrin, without arousing the wrath of its doughty inhabitants. The Dwarves' hubris would be punished in turn but for now the Cult had more pressing work in spreading the word amongst their fellow men. Blutfurt was the first human settlement to feel the embrace of the Colossus as the Cult emerged from the forests, fire in hand and murder in their eyes. The wretched hamlet certainly lived up to its name, as the ford it straddled like a squatting peasant soon ran red. Wermius watched on, rejoicing that now the ground had been consecrated with the blood of the innocent, work could begin on the Great Ark that had appeared in maddening dreams, both to him and those others who were attuned to the visions and signs sent them by their nascent deity.
So with this month's OWAC entry we finally have the coming of the Colossus! It was a tough month's painting thanks to a whole bunch of issues at work that I won't waste more time on describing here. However their impact had me worshipping more at the altar of Bacchus than at that of the Colossus and unfortunately my output suffered a bit as a consequence. This leaves me with a load of cultists who will have to get done after the challenge finishes, as well as a little diorama I made. June will be a leader month for me and I want to devote the time to doing justice to the characters at the head of the Cult.
In terms of my influences this month, I've been listening to a lot of Ghost. They are a bit controversial in Metal circles - the common criticism is it sounds like Scooby Doo music at times and can get a bit too close to Pop, although I quite like that. Obviously the subject matter of many of their songs feeds in very well to a lot of the themes I've worked in to the Cult and the whole theatrical nature of the band's shows with their lead singer dressing up as a devilish priest and the nameless ghouls in their masks and hoods is exactly the look I'm going for!
I love the artwork for their albums too and had hoped to incorporate it in to one of the banners I had planned but sadly the march of time put paid to that - there might be an opportunity for that in June's entry however. You might also spot some of their lyrics appearing in the summoning ritual my Cult perform later on.
Timbers and boards were dragged from the still smouldering remains of hovels and huts, and rough axles were hewed from the charred beams of the skeletal remains of the village's rudimentary church. As the impossible structure began to take shape, inspired in part by the living shrine to Moloch that had been dragged at such cost over the mountains, new volunteers stepped forward from amongst the hooded ranks to offer their skills in this monumental undertaking. Former stonemasons laid aside the cruel blades they were now more accustomed to wielding, once more taking up the tools of their old trade to construct a great arch that sat atop two huge boulders, quarried from rich warp stone deposits sniffed out by the Ratmen of the Beastmen pack. Those who had knowledge of smithing set to work melting down what iron and bronze they could find to fashion the sigils and signs of power that would adorn the Ark and hasten the advent of their beloved Colossus. Those who had no such skills did their part in hunting down the poor unfortunates who might be put in to the yoke to draw their monstrous shrine still further in to the Empire of Man.
Many days had passed since the Cult had resumed their journey. Yet another ill maintained and pitted road lay ahead of them and the rain lashed down, turning what had been hard standing in to an unforgiving quagmire. Wermius cursed under his breath after one of the few surviving slaves expired under the grinding effort it took to haul the Ark over ruts and potholes. The ritual to raise the dead had become somewhat routine of late - a gruelling necessity to ensure there were enough in the draught team to keep the Ark rolling inexorably towards its destination. Those members of the Cult who were more bestial in nature unfortunately were not adept in the taking of prisoners alive and Wermius cursed them every time he was forced to call on those Dark Powers necessary to reanimate the corpses of fallen slaves. He closed his ears to the pitiful mewling of the living dead struggling in their chains as the crows pecked hungrily at their eyes. Clenching his fists, he cast his own eyes to the heavens, barely restraining the tirade that threatened to burst from his lips. With a visible effort, however, Wermius calmed himself, instead reflecting on and thanking Colossus for the small mercy that their passage was slightly eased by the reluctance of the craven Sylvanina peasantry to openly oppose them...
The banners I did get done were fun. On the left we have a verse from Byron's dramatic work, Cain, which seemed quite fitting. The design is from some excellent artwork that I thought looked a bit like the Colossus. The sigils around it are lifted from some Cthulhu mythos artwork I quite liked the look of. The banner on the right references Satan's temptation of Eve when he appears to her as the serpent at the Tree of Knowledge, "For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” I'd wanted to incorporate the idea of the blind leading the blind too and Brueghel's painting of the same name seemed the ideal vehicle.
Perhaps they must have been found wanting still by their Living God, Wermius reasoned.That must be why the Colossus continued to temper them in the furnace of affliction. The creation of the Ark had taken a full seven days to complete, but now their perseverance was being tested even further in the greatest trial yet, as they faced the purgatory of this toturous march back in to the heart of the Lands of Men. The firey heat of the Blasted Wastes had tormented them horribly but now the chill water that fell unceasingly from the leaden Sylvanian sky sought either to engulf them in raging torrents that thundered down from the mountains, or to subsume them in to the very earth through the cold, sucking mud that mired all in its clinging morass. Yet still onward did the eyeless living corpses strain with their terrible load and Wermius mused whether it was a case of the blind leading the blind.
Those of you with a literary bent may have detected a heavy Lovecraftian influence in my narrative this month - I've certainly raided his descriptive vocabulary rather heavily! As I mentioned in my introduction post the ideas and themes of desperate down and outs forming devilish cults just out of the reach and credulity of the authorities are very much present in the Cult of the Colossus and The Horror at Red Hook has been a big influence. Lovecraft's favourite setting of Arkham with it's sagging gambrel rooves seemed a good match for Sylvania's Nachtdorf and, having studied maps of the Old World, a good point of entry for the Cult as they advance in to the Empire.
Robert W. Chambers' short story, The Yellow Sign, has also made its presence felt and there's a few lines from it that I've worked in to my own narrative. It's one of the stories that makes up The King in Yellow which refer to a play of the same name, which when read leads to madness. Similarly, the Yellow Sign, if seen, results in some form of possession or mind control by the King in Yellow. Lovecraft read and referred to both the sign and the King in Yellow in his own writing.
And what of their destination? Where would this madness take them? In to the Eirie Downs that bordered Ostermark they were bound, where they could complete their diabolic pilgrimage. To this place they were drawn, guided by those prophets among them who communed in the dead of night with their God. Though fragrant heather and delicate wildflowers now thrived in those bleak peat moors, it had once been a place of great bloodshed and anguish where the souls of men did not rest easy. Here would be the place to summon the living incarnation of their beloved Colossus. Here He could manifest himself and grow strong on the restless souls that clung to the place of their dissolution. Here, once the proper sacrifices had been made, the rituals observed and chants recited, the Word would be made flesh.
|I managed to nab one of Iron Hammer Miniatures' lovely slave Ogres - Aaron very kindly sent me a resin version as well as one of the metal masters so he'll be featuring along with a bunch of other stuff I wasn't able to resist!|
Night had fallen on the Downs but the peace was not to last. The air trembled as a terrible crescendo of cracked bass organ notes thundered forth from the Ark's great horn. They gave way to a terrible grinding and rending sound as two realities struggled to co-exist in the same space and the chanting of the cult rose in volume and fervour, in response to this unearthly din.
Shuddering with fear and ecstasy, Wermius' eyes widened at the appearance in the great arch of a black smoky mass, insubstantial and slowly writhing and turning in on itself. Gradually it expanded to fill the opening and the monk found himself entranced by the swirling mass of stars and galaxies that slowly wheeled in to view. He felt his very soul being drawn out of his body in to this void and he would have thrown himself in willingly, wholly bewitched as he was.
As this is nominally the baggage train for the army I thought I'd best include a camp kitchen and Foundry's Witches' Coven provided a nice base to work from. I made up a little diorama of a poor unfortunate waiting at the chopping block - I ended up using one of Mantic's plastic zombies as the victim as I had no one else in a suitable pose. Either the cult is getting desperate and eating the fallen animated Dead who pull their Ark of the Colossus or he's just a particularly emaciated prisoner!
The executioner is from an excellent little range from Gripping Beast, the Order Militant, designed for Saga, Age of Magic. He's a Hexencutioner officially but seems to have shifted his allegiance a bit for my purposes! The rest of the Order Militant are waiting patiently to be inducted in to the Cult at some point and the Bishop from this range should make a pretty good homage to Papa Emeritus from Ghost. By conincidence I ended painting the same miniature as one of my fellow Old World Challengers and thus got an ID on a mini I had no idea about - the Hunchback Assistant from West Wind makes a great butcher!
My standard bearers are both Ral Partha, who do a great range of Monks, Clerics and Magic Users who were perfect for the Cult.
Citadel's Mouth of Sauron is doing his job for a new master and is accompanied by a Citadel familiar and two more Ral Partha miniatures from the Chaos Imperium range - the Chaos Command Drummer and a War Wizard, both presumably sculpted by Bob Olley.
Two unknowns here on the left and middle - let me know in the comments! Enkalon of Garusa, of Bryan Ansell's Chaos Marauders box set, needs no introduction of course.
A few more unknowns although I'm assuming old Ral Partha. The Goblin drummer is Ral Partha of course.
Another Ral Partha Goblin, from the Goblin War Machine crew I think, an old pre-slotta Evil Priest from Citadel, one of Jes Goodwin's Chaos Ratmen, Wyrde Banebreath and the third witch from Foundry's Witches' Coven who have already featured.
Another Foundry witch, some weird mutant guy (let me know if you know him) and the Serpent Cult Summoner from Ral Partha's relatively recent Wizards' Conclave kickstarter.
Snake Priest (Ral Partha I think), Citadel preslotta although I don't know which range she's from and another unknown from Ebay!
Lastly we have a couple of minis I've been waiting on for a while since seeing the preview of the greens - I'm really glad they went in to production in time to include here! Antediluvian Miniatures' lovely sculpt of Aleister Crowley and a little Homunculus companion certainly feel right at home here in the Cult and I even included a bit of one of Crowley's Book of Lies. It's just a shame I didn't get round to finihing their Baphomet miniature but it'll feature another time.
The ceremony was approaching a climax of daemoniac frenzy and the fell congregation ebbed and swayed in response to their charismatic High Priests atop the high dais on the Ark. Their voices resonated with a terrible power,
"We stand here brethren, on the brink of the abyss with the world in flames behind us. We reach out to and beseech the Beast of many names that he embrace us in his shadow. These are the days my friends, marching towards us. These are the days, racing towards us with blood on their teeth and lips."
A babel of barked and bleated words rose up in praise and adulation and the Magister continued,
"Hear that great trumpet sound ringing out! A great clarion call! Seven times shall we march round the cities of men and watch them fall. For He is the light and the shadow, authority and rebellion, love and spite. In him all things are made and unmade - a vessel of possibilities. Nostro dis pater, nostr' alma mater! Mankind has run its course. Rulers are inept. Corrupt. Defunct. It is time to take back nature's reign - depose the Naked Ape of its malign rule and let Chaos once more be the guiding force. Now is the time of the Beast. "
Behind those lunatic cardinals, blasphemous, half-formed shapes of hell formed vaguely in the rippling haze that now filled the great arch of summoning. Odours of incense and corruption joined in sickening concert, and the black air was alive with the cloudy, semi-visible bulk of shapeless elemental things with eyes. Now an insidious murmuring like that of hundreds of voices whispering unspeakable things emanated from the high dais. That muttering sound, like thick oily smoke from a fat-rendering vat or an odour of noisome decay filled Wermius' head and he knew he was in the presence of the Living God...
With a last burst of maniac and fevered oratory, despite the mortal terror that was writ large on their horribly drawn faces, the High Priests began the final chants and exhortations of the ritual,
“We live as we dream - alone. While the dream disappears, the life continues painfully.The horror! The horror! Like a running blaze on a plain, like a flash of lightning in the clouds. We live in the flicker. So farewell hope, and with hope farewell fear. We welcome you O' Colossus that you might be our salvation and ruination.
Between the desire
And the spasm
Between the potency
And the existence
Between the essence
And the descent
Falls the Shadow
Plunge from the height, O God, and interlock with Man!
Plunge from the height, O Man, and interlock with Beast!"
With that it seemed as though the sky itself was cloven in two by an almighty peal of thunder and a great foetid wind howled through the hooded horde. In that moment men went mad, gibbering and slobbering horribly. Wermius reeled as though from a physical blow and looked up in horror and wonder at the source of that hideous strength. A gargantuan clawed hand reached out. Its skin looked soft and newborn and yet it was a blasphemous mockery of the image of man. Gripping the arch's stonework, slowly and with horrible deliberation, something began to haul it's indescribable bulk from the clutches of the warp. Like part of some grotesque insect, a skeletal appendage scythed out in to the night air and unfurled. The bat-like wing flexed, glowing and transparent in the firelight, interlaced with a delicate filigree of veins and arteries. Then He was through, looming monstrously above his subjects, his gaze heavy as cold lead. The New Colossus had come.
Well there you have it - the Colossus is finally here! Just the Leader month to go and I'm looking forward to tackling a dragon and a few other pieces for his entourage...