Friday, 22 November 2013

XLI. The Headless Horse-man

Wyrd's Rotten Harvest online competition has finally resolved. When the results came in I was happy to find that one of my entries, The Headless Horse-man, came second in the category reseved for the undead. I would just like to say thanks all who entered and voted, and see you next year. : )

And now, when all is over, I am allowed at last to discuss my entry here.

The competition was a great motivation to get one of the three remaining Horse-men of Hades done. I'll start from the very beginning:

I took out all the Scavengers of Acheron parts to decide which one it would be, and in the end went with the Headless one. Mainly because he would be by far the easiest to convert, and I had limited time.

Before starting I made a sketch, where I put down all the details I wished to add.

This is an early test-fitting of the parts. The sword comes from one of the plastic Empire kits, and I wasn't sure which side of the horse it should stand on. Here its position is different than in the finished version.

I really wanted him to have a round shield like that, where I would paint a design that matches the design on the shield of the Reaper Horse-man. I picked a Ghoul hand from my bits box to hold it.

Then I went on to actual converting. I added some extra detail: the rope reins and trophy heads he collects.

I had to be careful with the reins. It takes some effort to make them look believable. I used quite rigid wire for the rope, but by properly curving it still managed to achieve the sense of weight and flexibility real rope should have.

First I dealt with the mount, saving the rider for later. When they were both done I would simply put them together.

When the horse was painted, I transplanted it on the simple base I'd made in the meantime.

It seems my painting process is such that I never remember to take any pictures while I work. I'm just too concentrated on finishing the paintjob. Unfortunately, that means no WIP pics of that part.

And this is it, the finished Horse-man:

Friday, 15 November 2013

XL. The Box

A little digression. Look, a box with my mark on the lid. What could it hold inside?

Parallel with the mandrake form the last post, I worked on a wee diorama unconnected to the Gardens of Hecate project. The idea was for it to be very small and easy to carry around, so I can always have it with me in my bag to show it to people when the question "So, do you have any hobbies?" comes up. I find it excruciating when I have to describe this obscure hobby to someone who's never heard of anything like it, and most of the time I can't tell if they even got the idea in the end. Having an example to show them would make it so much easier for me.

For that reason I came up with this scheme of building a diorama inside a tiny box. It took me some more time to figure out what kind of scene I would be doing in the first place. After tossing around a couple of ideas, I settled for an image from one of my own original tales: the story of the demon critter Krastačar.

He's an impish creature with the skin of a frog, a rat's tail and a long nose. In the story he causes some trouble to the village of Vranobor. The tale also mentions that he often visitis the great forest Rogorija, where he enjoys one of his favourite pastimes: he catches "squirrels, rats and mice and then ties all their tails together in one big knot."- a reference to the rat king phenomenon. I reckoned the diorama could show him chasing a mouse through the forest, since that's nicely dynamic and I already had a miniature rodent and a nurgling in a convenient pose to represent the imp.

Enough rambling, here it is- the pocket diorama:

The inside. In the lid I pasted a piece of yellowed paper with some of the actual text of the story, and a stylized toad painted on top of it. Krastačar hatched from an egg of a toad. His father was a three-legged rat...
The diorama itself is 30mm wide, 45mm tall, and just a bit over 20mm deep. And it's basically a 3D illustration. : )
Here in the background is a map of the story, which I made to be able to refresh my memory right before telling it.
Hope you like it!

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Monday, 11 November 2013

XXXIX. The Root of Mandragora

Mandrake - Mandragora officinarum (Solanaceae)- is a Mediterranean plant which, just like many of its fellow nightshades, contains potent alkaloids. It has greenish-white flowers and brownish-orange berries (the only non-poisonous part of the plant), and its branched root resembles a tiny human figure. 

The Solanaceae/ nightshades family contains some other interesting plants. Deadly nightshade (Atropa belladonna) has a long history of use in medicine ( most notably as a painkiller), cosmetics (historically, women used drops prepared from the plant to dilate their pupils, which was found attractive; that's where the name comes from: bella donna is Italian for pretty lady.), as well as a poison and a recreational drug (it causes vivid hallucinations, but it's quite risky because it's easy to accidentally fatally overdose.). 
Datura (Datura stramonium) has uses in medicine, shamanism and, according to Wade Davis' controversial hypothesis, it is an important ingredient of a powder used by Haitian voodoo witch doctors to turn people into zombies.
Henbane (Hyoscyamus niger) as well is used as an anaesthetic, a psychoactive drug and poison. Henbane might be the cursed hebenon, whose juice was used to kill Hamlet's father. 
Nicotiana tabacum, commonly known as tobacco plant, contains the alkaloid nicotine, which is a neurotoxin and was long used as an insecticide. In mammals, though, it acts as a stimulant, which is why I enjoy it on a daily basis. 
Plants like tomato, potato, pepper and eggplant also belong to the nightshade family, but are far more fun to eat than to write about.
Let's go back to mandrake.

With its interesting root and its hallucinogenic properties, it's only natural that quite a bit of folklore has grown around mandrake. A mundane and perfectly real plant species transformed into a mythical creature. So what does folklore say? 

First of all, the shape of its root is by no means a coincidence- every mandragora is fathered by a human. More accurately, it grows where the semen of a hanged man dripped on the ground (this is not that rare an occurrence, and it's called death erection). It makes sense, of course. It looks like a man because its father is a man. Its mother is the earth, and the earth normally gives birth to plants when seed is planted in it, so mandrake is a plant as well. 

That also might be the reason why it is said to scream when it is taken out of the ground- a human newborn screams when it comes into the world. But why is the scream of a mandrake deadly to all who hear it?
It IS a highly toxic plant, could be deadly if you ingest it. Perhaps people just extended that deadliness to its voice. That reminds me of a similar thing with the basilisk: its bite is deadly (it must be, after all it's the king of serpents), but for some reason its gaze kills just as well. I have another theory, though.

If people believe that picking a mandragora will kill them, they won't go around picking them. And if they never pick it they won't find out it doesn't have a killer scream, so the legend lives on. But who the hell cares? Well...  

People believed the root was a very useful thing to have, like a lucky charm. Here's a quote from the book Folk Medicine (Brenko,Dugac,Randić. 2011. Narodna medicina. Etnografski muzej Zagreb.):
"Mandrake (Mandragora officinarum Tourn.) was one of the most famous magic and poisonous plants in the Middle Ages, which became a symbol of this period. The root was cut in the shape of the human body and kept as an amulet. It brought good fortune only to the owner who would weekly bathe it in wine, clothe it in a silk or velvet robe, and offer it the finest food." 
The possession of it was thought to ensure prosperity. But everyone knows that one can't just go and pick it, if they wish to live. The best thing to do then is buy it from a professional who is skillful at digging up mandrakes. So, who profits from people's continuous belief in the deadly scream? Mandrake salesmen. Pretty cool scheme. And as it says in the quote, the root was often additionally cut, to better resemble the human form. Sometimes the root was not even mandrake at all, but some other root cut into the desired shape.

Artwork by Santiago Caruso. An old hag appears to be pampering a mandragora. It's wearing a tiny outfit, and there's a tank full of red liquid on the side (wine? blood?), presumably for the root's bath.
   According to folklore, there is a way to safely take a mandrake out of the ground, but I'm saving that bit for a later post.

Now, I present the Running Mandragora:

Funny little bugger. The base is one of the Nurglings from the Plaguebearer box. I erased its face and clipped its horns. The leaves are made of greenstuff, using a homemade press mould to achieve the veins. The white berries are grains of sand. 
The real life plant is of course not red, I took some artistic liberty here. I'm happy with how it turned out. : )

Mandrake getting chased through the woods by a pack of bloodfiends.

Same as above, but desaturated. Which one looks better to you? This is a bit of practice for the future battle report pictures.

This one is with blur, for a better sense of motion.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

XXXVIII. Another November

My, my, time flies. Almost a week ago, on November 1st, it had been exactly one year since my first post in Gardens of Hecate. In that time I have converted and painted 44 miniatures and built around twenty pieces of various terrain, displayed across 38 blog posts. I still haven't played a single game; but hey, all in good time. Thanks to all folks who follow and comment on my blog, be you among the 63 registered ones or one of them lurkers. Big thanks to Dave Taylor for featuring Gardens of Hecate in his own blog; as that really helped people notice this place.
Anyways, happy birthday Gardens: ) 

A peek into my display cabinet, where the Gardens collection currently takes up two shelves.

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Wyrd's Rotten Harvest online painting competition is running a bit late, they suddenly moved the deadline for a few days. But the galleries are now finally up: Rotten Harvest 2013 Galleries. I'm not allowed to say which entries are mine until after the voting has ended on Nov 17th, but if you go through the Not Quite Dead Yet category it shouldn't be that difficult to guess one. The polls should be up on Wyrd forum sometime today, so if you're registered there- do cast a vote for your favourites.

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What's next? A bit of walking plantlife; namely, a mandragora and a tree-man. Both are meant for scenarios I'm working on, but more on that later.

My mandragora is still a sketch. There will be three versions of it: buried, uprooted and dead. I'll make the uprooted, running one out of a spare Nurgling, and the other two will be completely scratchbuilt.

The tree-man is an Ent from GW's LOTR range. It used to have a face, but I removed it and added some branches to the front of its head. In a scenario, it will be the guardian of a powerful magical item.