Sunday, 20 August 2017

Unit showcase - Cursed Pharaoh

In life, Akran was a great student and even greater teacher. His keen intellect and voracious appetite for study had seen him accrue a wealth of information from all the various sub-schools of necromancy taught across the Ahmunite empire. Of course the assessment of his ability was his own, but his charisma and penchant for self promotion had others believing in his greatness. He was quite sought after for his special lecture series in the elitist of dark magic covens. For a fee, of course. Akran the Bright was the title spread across the flyers advertising his engagements, and he lived his life shining in the comforts that fame and wealth bring. Mannerisms and raiment he borrowed from the noble classes, and presented himself as a sort of pseudo pharaoh: regal and glowing.

While a large part was bluff and bluster, he was not entirely without talent. Gifts from admirers and people eager to gain his favour often included rare tomes and manuscripts, some even with real rituals and spells useful to a necromancer.

Akran sat in his study, leafing through the pile of papyrus and tablets he had picked up on his most recent tour. These were focused on the methods for burial and preservation of the pharaohs. His treasures even included an ornate stone sarcophagus, stolen from an artisan before it could be delivered to its royal purchaser. Outside his window the wind stirred, swirling in through the half open shutters and picking up a little dust off his floor. He glared, annoyed, at the dust. The cleaners really have been sloppy. Standing up from his desk, he made his way to the window to seal it against the elements. In the distance he could hear the wind blowing stronger, wailing as if a thousand voices were being torn from their owners throats. As he approached the glass he looked out over the city and froze in his steps. The far edges of the city were as dark as night, engulfed in huge clouds of violently churning sand. The storm was surging and pulsing, making its way deeper into the city. The sounds he thought were the wind mere moments earlier resolved clearer now he was at the sill. The wailing was humans screaming. The voices were really being torn from their owners throats. This storm was death, and he knew in his bones that no one would survive.

No one but he, perhaps. For he was smarter than most, with a room full of magical artefacts and forbidden knowledge. His eyes flicked around the room, trying to assess what could help him. Panic was setting in, and his face was dripping sweat. The weight of his heavy robes, fashioned in the style of the ruling classes, pulled at his arms as he rifled through his desk drawers. Amulets and rings clinked and clattered cheerfully, mocking his imminent doom. He grabbed some random handfuls, stuffing them in pockets, on chains over his head, onto fingers. He grabbed his favourite staff, a golden star set upon the top. He knew it contained power but had yet to unlock its secrets.

His brain darted from half idea to idea, coming back to dismissed ones as fast as he assessed them, getting nowhere but tying himself in intellectual knots. There had to be something he could do! Spinning in circles, looking at shelves, books, out the window at the engulfing dust storm bearing down on him, his cabinet of fine liquors, the line of awards across his fireplace's mantle piece, the stolen sarcophagus, the sturdy door locked against unwanted interruptions, more shelves, books, the liquor. The sound from the windows was rising in pitch. Two thousand screams, five thousand, ten thousand. The eerie low pitch of screams dying down as their owners perished mingled with the rising pitch of those only just being engulfed, creating an awful harmony of the end of the city. Of the Ahmunite empire.

The liquor cabinet was now open, half drunk bottles strewn across the floor. Akran wiped spilled drink from his face with the back of his sleeve, still in panic, but ever so slightly calmer for the warmth in his belly. He looked again around the room, and he finally had an idea that stayed for more than two seconds. As the wind got stronger, blowing the shutters off their frames, he shoved the lid of the sarcophagus open. The heavy stone groaned in defiance, but he was able to slide it large enough for him to fit inside. He grabbed his latest pile of scrolls and tomes off his desk, and dumped them in the opening. He followed after, squirming his body down inside the funerary cocoon, pulling his staff in behind him. He lifted his head to glance around the room one last time. A small drift of sand was forming under the window, stretching across the floor towards him. The pitch of the shrieking wind was becoming deafening, and even the internal door was being buffeted to the point of breaking. With a resigned sigh Akran lay down fully in the sarcophagus, and pulled the lid closed. The artisan's work was outstanding, and there were even small latches on the inside for the deceased to keep themselves safe. Sliding these into place by touch in the darkness, Akran thought about how quiet it was inside. the cries of the dying was muffled and distant. All inside was calm. "I'm Akran the Bright" he thought. "I'll get through this, I just need some quiet time to think". Outside, the room continued to fill with sand.

Jareth looked at the priest with a patient yet hard gaze. As lord of Angelfall, and also a vampire, Jareth was the absolute ruler of the township. He had started the church centuries before to help guide and protect his human subjects, and only the higher level priests knew who and what Jareth was. That knowledge sometimes lead them to believe they had some power over Jareth, and became vexing for him when they tried to exert it.

He looked down at the stone sarcophagus, its ornate carvings faded with age and dulled by sands scrubbing against it for millennia. Many in the deep market circles knew to bring particularly exotic things to the Vampire Lord, and this was one such item. Exhumed somewhere near Ophidia, it had travelled half a world to here. It was obviously academically valuable, and the priest coveted it for his own. Muttering off a line of excuses about how he had been the one to receive and pay the deep market trader, how his church alone had the necromancy to study it, and other half listened to reasons, the priest was quickly wearing down Jareth's patience. As soon as the Vampire Lord was about to give in to his baser instincts, the door behind the high priest opened and in strode his superior, the necromancer Grimgul the Wise, a high priest of Angelfall. Assessing the situation in an instant, Grimgul dismissed the lesser priest. With a mutter he bowed and left, jealousy glowering from his face.

Over the next few nights Jareth and Grimgul worked together, cross referencing the symbols on the sarcophagus with ones in books from Jareth's impressive library, casting divination spells to glean the purpose and properties of what was inside the stone coffin, and other assessments. The needed magic to open the sarcophagus, the internal locks meant it could not be done manually without causing damage. Once open they were careful not to disturb the corpse inside as they extracted its treasures. By the end of their they had become convinced that this was a pharaoh of Ahmunite, a royal prince entombed after a great service to his people had tragically ended his life. Or possibly ending his life to be of great service to his people? But that variation on the translation made no sense to Grimgul.

With the Vampire Lord's collection of ancient Ophidian knowledge, their knowledge of more contemporary necromantic spells, and the scrolls and artefacts within the sarcophagus, Jareth and Grimgul knew they could raise the price. They could bring forth this Cursed Pharaoh.

The pain of being torn from the emptiness of non-existence back into the realm of the living was given form in Arkran's chest, bursting out as a terrifying scream that echoed off the walls of the dungeon chamber despite no lungs existing to give it breath. Sitting up he surveyed the room. Instead of his liquor cabinet and trophies, there were work benches and dead things. It was like his study yet unlike it. The white walls of his desert building, lit bright with sun, replaced with grey walls of dark stone, lit by flickering torches and candles. Instead of eager students gazing up at him with hope, he saw two pale figures looking at him with morbid curiosity. One face clean and smooth, the other wrinkled and bearded. "Who are you?" the words rasped out of Akran's throat, sand and pain scraping up with them. "I am Jareth, and this is Grimgul" came the unnaturally smooth reply from the clean faced stranger, the words feeling full and cold, as if backed by unimaginable power from somewhere deep underground. "We have brought you back from your resting place, foreign prince. Your death is now unlife, and we have much we would learn from you" he continued. "Now you know our names; by what may we call you?" Jareth, the man of the two with the paler skin, asked.

"Akran" he replied, dust and sorrow echoing in the words. "Akran the Br..." he trailed off, looking around the room once more. Where before his life was golden, blessed with freedom and wealth, he knew his new life, his unlife, would not be. The grey walls dripped with moisture, as if they weeped for his past now gone. "Akran the Bleak".

Akran fighting alongside Lord Charnel and Plaguewind

I played a few games with the Cursed Pharaoh without any upgrades. Previously I'd thrown the Inspiring artefact into a necromancer, but taking a Cursed Pharaoh instead seemed to give me that Inspiring edge as well as someone who could actually fight in a pinch, the only trade off being a slightly lower surge. I didn't pick up putting Wings of Honeymaze on him until after the Clash of Kings 2017 changes to lower his Def score, yet it still seems a solid choice.

He keeps up with my fast moving flanking forces such as werewolves or wraiths, but can stand his own against small opponents one on one, or disrupt enemy shooters including wizards and war machines.

The model I use is the old, early 1990s metal GW Arkhan the Black. I had been fielding him with the paint job he arrived with off ebay, but recently I took the opportunity to strip and repaint him myself. I'm advancing my paint skills I think, and am particularly happy with the blending work I've done on the cloak and hat. I've kept him in the purple scheme of a lot of my army, but with red as an accent colour.

I've also magnetised his back so I can add and remove Wings of Honeymaze in case I want to field him with or without. In hindsight, I probably would have just painted up a second, different pharaoh model to use with Wings, and not hacked a magnet into this classic old model. The wings are "small demon wings" or something like that from Ral Partha Europe.

No comments:

Post a Comment