Wednesday, April 4, 2018

A Pyrrhic Victory/Justice or Vengeance? (Frostgrave Mini-Fiction)

The bloodied remnants of the mercenary company dragged themselves slowly through the drifting snow still eddying through the ruined city of Felstad.  Their leader, the diabolist who called himself "Belphegor," was feeling his age as he trudged forward, refusing to glance back at his followers; refusing to see the questions and fears in their eyes.  They'd beaten back that Enchanter's warband and seized a far amount of treasure on this first foray into the depths of the Frozen City, it was true; but they'd also left three of their own dead in the snow, their blood steaming as it pooled across the ancient cobblestones.  The brutish thug Big John had been peppered with arrows and fallen off a ledge, the sickening crack of his spine breaking echoing through the ruins.  The burglar Deladrin had likewise been shot down, an arrow catching her as she darted from one shadow to another.  And most distressing, the half-goat, half-man that bleated its name as "Black Phillip"...hacked into bleeding chunks by his own comrade, the knight Vaeloth - ensorcelled by a "Mind Control" spell, he'd been forced to attack his own fellows - including Belphegor.  The half-fiend's horned head hung in shame, his sword cast away somewhere on the battlefield; he dragged Black Phillip's heavy, two-handed axe behind him, leaning against his sister - the thief Tiviel - for both physical and moral support.  

As you can probably tell, my last game with Tom was a bit of a Pyrrhic victory! I think at the end of the game all I had left on the table was my Wizard, Apprentice and a Crossbowman, and during the recovery phase at the end of the game, three figures bit the dust for good, including, to my infinite disappointment, the Infantryman "Black Phillip." The goat-headed beastman mixed nicely with the humans and half-fiends and emphasized the "traditional diablerie" theme I have going with my Summoners.

But, the nice thing about a game like Frostgrave or Mordheim is that it encourages the development of a story through the medium of the dice.  And this set me up very nicely; three rounds stuck under a mind-control spell and forced to kill his comrades means the knight Vaeloth now has a vendetta against Tom's Wizard, which will change the way I run him on the table next time we meet.  And since, when it came time to roll up treasure, I discovered I'd found a "Banner of Courage" (which gives a bonus against spells like Mind Control) which I immediately equipped Vaeloth with - and that meant converting a figure to represent him carrying the Banner into battle!

Fortunately, Vaeloth was a Reaper Bones figure; #77120 "Vaeloth, Hellborn Paladin" to be exact, pictured in his original state to the left.  It was a simple matter to buy a second copy of the figure and slice away his sword (Bones figures lend themselves very well to conversion).  A 3" pin pushed through his hand provided the skeleton of a banner pole, and a little bit of Green Stuff thickened it out.  A spare banner from a Games Workshop Chaos Warriors box (along with a horned skull from the same) completed the Banner of Courage.  But this left Vaeloth without a weapon! So I cut away his right arm just above the elbow (at the edge of his scalemail sleeve) and cut apart a Chaos Warrior's right arm so that I had a gloved hand holding an axe.  A little bit of Green Stuff became the sleeved arm between the scale armor and the hand, and Vaeloth was ready to be painted.

I copied the color scheme from my first Vaeloth pretty closely, though I brightened his armor a little (drybrushing a bit more Tarnished Steel over the Blackened Steel base coat) and highlighted his red tunic a little bit brighter.  I kept the banner as simple as possible; an ordinary inverted pentagram in white (a color I haven't used in this warband) looks very striking against the dark red of the banner.  I still need to decide if I want to glue a grass tuft or two to his base, and then add snow flocking.

Belphegor weighed the pouch of golden crowns in his hand, mentally calculating how much of the treasure their last foray had brought in remained.  He'd hired a second crossbowman to help counter the archers he expected to encounter on his next trip into the ruins, and recognizing the value of a combination of skill at arms and heavy armor, he'd hired another knight, the albino Lady Cassiata; she had brought with her a pair of enormous warhounds.  He hoped the slavering brutes would make quick work of rival spellcasters. 

"When do we return to the ruins?" grated a barely-human voice behind him.  Vaeloth.  The armor-clad half-devil hefted the axe to his shoulder - he'd cut the haft of Black Phillip's battleaxe down so that he could wield it one-handed.  Its edge gleamed, freshly sharpened. 

Belphegor smiled thinly beneath his cowl.  "Soon, my impatient friend.  Your axe will taste blood ere long."

"When?" Vaeloth insisted.  "That wizard is still out there.  I will not allow him to control me again - I swear by the Pit! Black Phillip's axe will drink deeply his lifeblood - let me find him and exact justice!"

Belphegor could not help but chuckle.  "Justice, my friend? Or revenge?"

Vaeloth howled with rage, unable to refute the diabolist's suggestion.  Behind them, seated on a crate as she mended the straps on her shield, Lady Cassiata could not suppress a snicker.  The red-eyed woman made no attempts to hide her contempt for the half-devil's explosive temper and demonstrably weak will.  Vaeloth turned and snarled at her, and almost immediately her slim, single-edged sword was drawn and at his throat.  

"Settle down, both of you!" Belphegor demanded, allowing arcane energies to crackle between his fingers.  "Stop this at once or I'll consign both of you to the Pit.  Save your energy for Felstad.  We re-enter the city soon enough."

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