Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Tainted Pharaoh: Pseusene's Fate

Now that you have seen a few completed pieces for the new Tomb Kings army, I realize that it is high time to share the back story behind this army...

The Tainted Pharaoh

I bask in the gentle gaze of the sun through my palace window, feeling as if it were a friend long lost. Its rays gleam upon my Golden City, illuminating great temples and colossal statues. Immense carvings flanked by glyphs describe my wondrous deeds. Below me, thousands pour in and out of my Temple of the Sun, making offerings, insuring the health of my Reign. The din of cattle and smithies fills the air. In the far distance, I see the dust of the quarries, where my defeated foes toil without end to gather the materials for my master architects.

For many years I have ruled, subjugating inferior kingdoms and peoples at the head of my vast legions. Time and again, my chariots thunder across the landscape, conquering, adding to my great wealth. The name of Pseusenes is spoken with reverence by my own people, but with fear and dread by our enemies.

All is as it was destined to be; yet I long for more. I must secure my glory for all time. The desire to rule eternally in this life consumes me. My priests assure me that this is possible, for they have uncovered a dark tome which contains magics thought lost to the ages. I do not know how this is possible, but the lure is undeniable.

As I turn away from the window, I hear only silence... the commotion of the Temple complex vanishes abruptly. The warm hues of my palace now glow with a sickly and eerie shade of bluish green. Startled, I turn back to the window, and a horrific sensation permeates every fiber of my being. I can no longer feel my own flesh! With great dread I look down at my hands. Beneath tattered bandages I see only dried sinew and bones, covered in the dust of ages, stained and blacked by time. How can this be? Struggling to move my own living corpse, I reach the window.

No longer do I see the glorious edifices and magnificent statues... I see nothing but decay, desolation, and ruin. Fallen temples and shattered carvings litter the once broad avenues and plazas. The only movements come from the sand that blows in the never-ending wind. As I look closer, I see piles of bones and skulls that are occasionally exposed in the howling gusts.

The only living creatures, if they could be called such, are giant carrion birds, crawling over the carcasses, flying high above in search for more. One of these beasts flies close to my window, peering back at me with an eyeless skull! Even the living here, it seems, are long dead.

I begin to remember now.
The betrayal, a loss of all that was to be mine for eternity. I recall the promises of the priests as they enacted their bizarre rituals. The transformation. The Fall.

Before this path to damnation had been completed, I sought my vengeance upon these priests who had betrayed me. All were banished into the desert or killed outright, save for one.

Since the Fall, all feeling, all sensations all pleasures once taken for granted are forgotten as decades, centuries and millennia pass. I only exist in this hideous, unliving state. Great heroes, faithful generals who had been part of my great victories in ages past, are nothing more than mindless, shriveled husks. Our troops suffer an even worse fate, the loss of all that makes them human. At first, the horror of their transformation was too great for them to bear, and they painted their exposed bones to conceal what they had become. As time passed, the last fragment of humanity faded, and so did the paint, the final, desperate measure to hang on to themselves. Now they are animated solely by Sephet, the last remaining liche priest. Had he been eliminated along with all the others of his kind, not even these desiccated remains of my Empire would live on.

Of all that has been lost and forgotten, there is something that still blazes inside me. Rage. Eternal rage, which has further poisoned my mind for untold centuries. Rage at the fate of my kingdom and myself. Rage as I watch lesser beings loot and pillage all that I have constructed. During one of these fits of rage, I was alone in the shattered remains of the inner sanctum of the Sun Temple. I stared up at the desecrated carving depicting the Sun God, which depicted his watchful eye looking down upon me. Some vestiges of yellow paint remained on the rays which had been carved into the relief, showing the God bathing myself and my Empire in his light.

"How could you allow this betrayal to occur?!" I demanded. Many times I had gone into this part of the Temple, to rail against the God to whom I had dedicated all my conquests. "Is this how you repay my devotion? Was I not your faithful servant?" "How could all that was so glorious be forgotten?" At first, the response was the same as it had always been. Nothing. No answers, no reasons. I was about to turn away when I noticed that the faded rays of the Sun God had begun to brighten, as if the paint were being restored before my eyes. Other parts of the relief also seemed to be altered, all the while becoming brighter and multi hued. The eye of the sun god began to shine with a strange pallor, nearly blinding me. The figures on the relief also changed. Even the carving of the God itself slowly, almost imperceptibly, morphed into a two headed birdlike creature.

Amazed, I called out to the apparition. "Have you come to answer my demands?" This was said with far less confidence than I had intended.

The Eye, now glowing a bright, noxious green, turned its gaze to me. I could sense the room beginning to flow with newfound power. All around the inner chamber of the Temple, statues and glyphs were being recreated, transformed. The God spoke. "This 'God' in which you believed and to which you have dedicated yourself for so long has never existed. He was merely a creation meant to assist you in fulfilling your ultimate destiny." I have guided you thus far, and now I require even more from you."

Briefly, my anger returned, casting aside my foreboding. "The decay of my civilization, the loss of all that I was... is this guidance? Is it my destiny to exist in this derelict form, watching all that I built slowly turn to dust?"

Deep in the inner sanctum of the Temple, Pseusenes listened in wonder as the new God proclaimed that he would restore not only his kingdom to its former glory, but more importantly, the Pharaoh and all his forces would be changed back to their mortal forms once again! It was almost more than he could bear to hear, but the mere thought of being human once again was truly irresistible. He pledged that he would do as the new God commanded, for he could see its power on display, transforming statues and objects in the temple before his eyes.

Many years had passed after that incident in the Temple. As the God commanded, the Pharaoh sent his legions to stop the never-ending incursions into his lands. Time and time again his skeletal hordes were defeated, crushed beneath the sands by all manner of beasts and war machines. How was it possible that he would once again be witness to the pillage of his tomb cities? Decades passed, and still his mummified warriors would be pushed back or wiped out altogether, with shattered constructs littering the field, and more priceless objects hauled away by the victors.

Far from restoring the glory of my kingdom, its cities fell into further ruin. Even my own Tomb City was not to be spared, though it suffered from a different manner of violation. Once a shining city of gold, almost none was to be found. These treasures had not been stolen away by looters, but instead had transformed into what looked like silver. It was not any form of silver familiar to me. Rather, it would constantly change in color and even in form, as if it were quicksilver. The braziers in the temples and tombs now glowed in strange colors of azure, green and even purple. The flames would seem to burn blue hot, yet they cast no warmth. Instead, the coldest chill I could imagine emanated from them. Even the carrion were different. Their feathers had turned the shades of exotic birds that I used to keep in my palace. Some now had a second head, mirroring the God.

When asked why my armies won no glory, no victories, the God responded. "Those meaningless artifacts and trinkets which they take back with them are not as they would appear. They cannot know what it is that they bring back to their distant lands. What you perceive as defeat is actually a great victory in my cause, for you conquer each of the races which has come here to loot your treasures." "The value they place on these objects allows me ultimately to bend them to my will." Unease washed over me as he informed me "One day they shall all be changed, as I have told you that you will also be changed." What choice did I have but to continue? This, it seemed, was my fate.

Once again, as I have done countless times before, I go to the window of my palace. The chill of a sickly green sun rises above a twisted landscape, where the sand writhes along the ground without the aid of the wind. Temple edifices rise, their glyphs morphing and changing moment by moment. They fall just as quickly, making way for even more bizarre buildings to take their place... impossible and unnatural forms for which no necrotect could be responsible. Statues of great Kings and generals, covered in feathers, look back at me with eyes glowing bright green. Everywhere are the images of the God and his ever watchful Eye. It is emblazoned on the banners of incalculable number of chariots and archers. Constructs march forth at their flanks. This New Kingdom shall now seek its vengeance upon all those who had for so long dared to disturb the slumber of the Great Silver Pharaoh.

As I was considering the story behind this army, I was faced with a dilemma.  How do I explain the non-standard color scheme?  Since I wanted no gold, red or turquoise, I needed something quite different.
When I did a design (on one of the chariot unit bases) of a two headed bird, an idea was hatched!  They would be linked to Tzeentch.  I now had a way to explain all the wild colors, and for the imagery. 

I also needed to explain why the army was crushed in every battle, no matter the type of list, or who the opponent was!  It did not take too long to create the "defeat scenario", where losing was the whole point!  Only a tricky god like Tzeentch would think of something like that :-)

Also, it allows me to tie into the next army, Bretonnians.  I have most of that story written as well.  The idea is that the questing Bretonnians have been hauling back all those tainted artifacts... one family in particular...


Ready, get Set(tra) GO! More Tomb Kings for Armies on Parade


As challenging as the Casket was, this was like painting 3 of them!  I decided to sculpt some armored blankets on the horses, similar to an illustration in the army book (I will show how that was done in a threat on the regular chariots).  I sculpted the blankets once with green stuff and plasticard.  It was cast into a mould, and then repeated multiple times.

Using all the extra banner tops from a variety of boxes, I was able to create the head dresses and the chest armor from the chariot set.

First, let's see the base before the minis were placed on it:

Each of the major pieces had to be painted individually.  When you have this sort of 'chaotc' color scheme, it gets more difficult to do so.  It becomes very difficult to know exactly where you stopped on color transition and began another!  I really wanted flow between the greener shades, the blue shades, and the purples.

Here are a few of the side views:





Now some top views.  These also show you the cartouches written on each horse.





Let's see Settra with the Casket: