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War in the Westreach: A Clash of Life and Death


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“Most people in Azyr will not have heard of the Westreach of Ghyran, for it is a region that has for many years been bereft of the light of Sigmar. Allow me then to explain for the uneducated reader. Situated west of the Living City, the Westreach is the name given to the lands between the Emerald Strait to the south and the Soulfrost Sea in the north. It is a place of ancient forests and mighty mountains, home to fallen empires and rising kingdoms.

In elder days it was the sylvaneth, aelves and duardin who ruled the reach. Descendants of these peoples still make the region their home, and the Everqueen Alarielle has – independent of our lord Sigmar – made efforts to repopulate the Westreach with her own folk. Even so, today the race of men is dominant, from the western kingdoms of Serenor and Leynia to the far northern vale of Kjaarthal – and, of course, the free city of Seahaven, which stands as a shining beacon of civilisation in an often wild land, and promises to usher in a new golden age of peace and prosperity beneath the glorious rule of Sigmar…”

– Excerpt from A Treatise on the Westreach, Introduction, by Arvel Prine, Azyrite scholar


Hello TGA! It's been a while since I last posted, for all sorts of reasons (mostly boring busy life ones), but I've been thinking about starting a new plog for a while now, and I think the time's right. So I hope you'll forgive a bit of preamble explaining how I got here!

I've always had a bit of a problem with jumping from project to project, so for this plog I want to do something a bit different - focus on all my various armies and warbands at once (mostly various order armies, some dating back to the world-that-was, and a growing death army). But I don't just want to show stuff I've painted from all over the place - I want to build connections between them, I want them to relate to each other, to make them part of a shared setting rather than keeping them all in isolation...

Those of you who've read my stuff before will know I *really* like detailed background and lore. And frankly, everything that GW has done this year with Malign Portents has been incredibly inspiring on a narrative level, especially the free stories, so I wanted to take some cues from that. Considering the fact that the Sylvaneth were my first true AoS army and a central part of the existing background I'd come up with, it was a natural choice to theme this plog around the opposed forces of life and death, irrevocably set on a collision course by the machinations of Nagash.

So what can you expect from this thread? Well, apart from the obligatory painting, conversions, and terrain, there'll be lots of lore and world building - probably even with maps! I'd like to experiment with doing a series of short stories much like the Malign Portents ones, too, showing events as they happen and really delving into a living, breathing setting. In other words. this plog will pretty much chart my journey through AoS as a narrative gamer - and hopefully be of interest to a few folks out there!

Anyway, that's enough talk for now. It wouldn't be a plog without pictures, so here's some of my more recent stuff to give a rough idea of what's to come:

A recently finished batch of dryads:


A WIP treelord (pretty much just the outer bark and eyes are done)


A few men from the Kingdom of Serenor (a spiritual successor of sorts to Bretonnia):


A vampire and necromancer - I've posted these before, but updated their basing after painting the ghouls below.


And a pack of ghouls.


I think that's more than enough for one post. Comments, criticisms, etc. are all welcome!

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Thanks for the kind words guys! And just for @Thundercake here's a quick pic of the first rough map of the Westreach. Planning on doing a bigger, much nicer version now that I've worked out what goes where, but this should give an idea of how everything fits together for now.


Stay tuned; more to come...

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The Mortal Realms are much troubled by fell spirits of late, and the Westreach is no exception. In recent months a new threat has appeared, a knightly spectre wearing a corroded mask and an hourglass tied about his neck. Malignant creatures flock to his side wherever he goes, their only seeming purpose to sow terror and death amongst the living. He has appeared as far west as the marches of Serenor and as far east as Thurnpeak, where he demanded Crelnaf Snow-eye swear fealty to Nagash and summoned the ghosts of the old duardin dead from beneath the mountain when the jarl refused.

None know the true name of this Knight of Shrouds – in the free cities he is known as the Red Gheist, while the people of Kjaarthal curse him as the Bloody Vættr. Thus far only the ancient land of Thardeia seems safe from his attentions, though whether this is because the powerful life magic of the forest repels the dead or simply because even he fears the might of Summerhold remains conjecture. Only one thing is certain: he is the will of Nagash made manifest, and will brook no opposition to his master’s ends.


So at the start of this year I was incredibly excited by all the rumours about Malign Portents, and decided that this year I would build my small death collection into a serious army. I bought several bundles (including the Christmas battleforce and a FEC Start Collecting), and things started off well with me quickly getting through the ghouls... then life happened, and the Nighthaunt below is all the death I've finished since.

And although I have a good chunk of WIP stuff awaiting completion, there's also the small matter of the upcoming Nighthaunt release, which looks absolutely stunning and set to demand my attention. Still, the year is not yet done, and I have plenty of time to build an army in Nagash's name - I think the Westreach's ghost problem is only going to get worse...

The Red Gheist, Terror of the West:


A Cairn Wraith. Got this guy in the Nighthaunt ally box and was really surprised by what a nice little model it is. Definitely worth picking up if you're on the fence about him.


A couple of banshees. These were kind of experiments to get the hang of painting spirits with Nihilakh Oxide and don't quite match the others. Still passable enough I guess!


And lastly the humble spirit hosts. Very quick to paint, but very fiddly and time consuming to build.


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Awesome project. I always like a good background story and I think it is really cool you have several forces who have interlocking stories. And to top that you have the painting and converting skills to back it up. Keep it going?

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11 hours ago, Slave2Chaos said:

Love the Nihilakh Oxide ghosts. Can you go into more detail how you achieved it?

Sure thing! The ghosts were done as follows (I use all GW paints):

- Basecoat with Celestra Grey.
- Coat with Nihilakh Oxide.
- Wash with thinned Coelia Greenshade (approx. a 50:50 mix).
- Then just highlight the raised areas with Ulthuan Grey. I say just, but this is easily the most time consuming step xD

And that's all there is to it really - fairly simple, but looks pretty decent I think. Hope that helps!

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Thanks again for the kind words everyone, it's all much appreciated.

Bit of an unusual update today - I mentioned in the first post how much I liked the Malign Portents stories and wanted to play around with doing my own version of them, since I've always loved writing fiction. So, after a bit of tinkering I came up with the following short story. Not sure yet if this will become a (semi?)regular feature or if there's much interest in this sort of thing... guess I'll just see what happens :)


The Portent

The woman picked her way through the trees in silence, alert to every subtle shift in their knotted boughs. She was alone; she had left her unicorn steed at the forest’s edge when the ground grew too rough. Dappled light trickled over her powder blue cloak and set the long tresses falling from beneath her hood gleaming like gold.

She cast a wary glance over her surroundings at the sound of cracking branches, wishing she could do more to assure the trees of her pure intent. The very presence of a human in this place was enough to make their ancient wood ache with anger. They did not like her kind. Why they had not tried to stop her, the woman could only guess. Perhaps they did know her intentions, or perhaps they sensed something else, something they did not understand. Something familiar, almost.

Without warning the woman stopped. Before her was a wall of solid wood, curved like the shell of a great tower. Her icy blue eyes narrowed. This was the place she sought, the destination she had been shown. A tree so ancient it had been buried beneath the very earth, a passage to a place of power no mortal had ever seen.

But how was she to gain entry?

She knew without looking that she would find no door in either direction, knew too that the hollow trunk had been sealed from above by branch and soil. She could feel the trees watching her, waiting, ready to judge her next move. Doubtless they would tear her apart if she tried to cut or burn her way inside. All at once she smiled and laid her hand on the petrified bark.

“My name is Alissea,” she whispered, clearing every thought from her mind and opening her heart to the song of the forest. “May I enter?”

There was a sharp crack as the bark before Alissea’s eyes parted, creating a dark sliver just wide enough for her to slip through. She breathed a sigh of relief, wondering at how the simplest of truths – a name, freely given – had bought her passage.

She stepped into the shadow and raised a single finger. As soon as she did an orb of pure golden light blossomed to life at the tip of her nail. Alissea paused for a moment. The inside of the tower-like tree was overgrown with moss and choked with soil, save for a thick root curving downwards like a spiral staircase. Keeping the orb of light before her, Alissea began her descent.

Soon the air grew old and stale, and the sounds of the world outside grew quieter, then disappeared entirely. This was a truly ancient place, Alissea thought, left behind and forgotten by the passage of time. Spites began to emerge from their secret hiding places, peeking out at her in fascination. A tingle ran through Alissea as she moved deeper, the pulse of life magic all around her quickening.

She was close.

At last she came to the bottom of the tree. A stone arch stood before her, worn smooth by untold centuries and bathed in a faint glow from the other side. Alissea let her magical light disappear and stepped through, unable to supress a gasp at the magnificent sight before her.

She stood at the edge of a colossal cavern, large enough to hold an entire city. The vast space was punctured by the giant roots of the buried tree as they stretched out like fallen towers, and awash in blue light emanating from a sea of strange flowers. Delicate arches and halls made up of interlocking branches were strewn across the landscape. It was unlike anything Alissea had ever seen.

Enraptured by the impressive sight, it took her a moment to realise that she was no longer alone. She had been surrounded by forest folk. Sylvaneth, half-tree and half-aelf in aspect, gleaming weapons clutched in their hands.

“You should not be here, mortal,” said one of the warriors, his voice hard as steel. “This place is hidden from your kind. How can it be you found it?”

“This place was shown to me by…” Alissea paused. “By a friend. One who would defend Ghyran during what is to come.”

She had struck some chord, for the sylvaneth exchanged a series of sharp glances. The lead warrior stepped forward and lifted a great glaive. Alissea forced herself not to reach for the sword at her belt as he moved towards her in a rustle of creaking wood, staring at her with dark, alien eyes. With a graceful flick of his weapon he pushed the hood back from her head and began to study her fair features with hawklike intensity.

Sparks of thought and emotion seemed to echo through the air, just out of Alissea’s reach. They were judging her, she knew. Her fate was wholly in the hands of the sylvaneth, and there was nothing she could do but trust that she would not have been sent here to die.

At last the tree-revenant stepped back, a strange mix of wonder and fear on his face.

“You will follow,” he said.

In silence he turned away and began to stride along a narrow path. Some of the others cast lingering looks at her, blank and unreadable, before they too stepped aside and faded into the shadows.

Alissea followed the sylvaneth warrior past fields of glowing flowers and over a small stream, its waters thick and silvery. Neither of them spoke, not even when they passed through one of the strange arches and magical lights flickered to life across its surface. Eventually they came to the wall of the cavern and stopped. Still the tree-revenant did not acknowledge her, but instead faced the wall and raised his glaive as if in salute.

“I bring the outsider, Lord Dru’nuril.”

Part of the cavern wall began to creak and shift, sending a ripple through the sea of vines and flowers. Not part of the wall, but a great lord of the sylvaneth, Alissea realised; she could make out the shape of a body, gnarled and knotted, and a wooden face overgrown with roots. As the mighty creature leaned forward she saw that he had no eyes, only two jagged pits that had surely been carved by swords or axes.

“What can it be brings a mortal woman to the sacred hall of Khirweth?” he asked, his voice a deep rumble like stones grating together.

“I seek answers to the questions that trouble me,” Alissea said, her head held high. “The land is distressed. Rivers churn with fear and cannot rest, and the trees are heavy with sorrow. There are dark whispers on the wind. I would know why.”

“Hm. You sense it, then.” Dru’nuril shuddered, sending flecks of dirt tumbling to the ground. “You will find your answers, little mortal… there.”

He raised a finger the size of a greatsword and pointed over her shoulder at a pool of black water, its surface still as death.

“Look into the pool. Do not hold back.”

Feeling uneasy for the first time since she had entered the forest, Alissea knelt by the pool’s edge and peered into the abyss. She leant closer, so close her nose was almost touching the water, so close all was black and she was blind. The darkness rushed upwards to claim her and she fell deeper, deeper into the earth. She saw innumerable pinpricks of green light, each one a spark of life, above and below and all around. She saw the Realm of Life unfurled like a map ablaze with jade lights and she saw it begin to dim, saw the lights go out one by one beneath a tide of rising shadow.

The vision changed and she fell deeper still, into the darkness and into the cold. Images flashed before her eyes, too fast and too many for her to register them all. A man cutting the grieving heart from his chest as an offering to the night. A fanged serpent wrapping its rotten body around a great ship, a twin-tailed comet emblazoned on its stern. Brother and sister slaughtering each other beneath a bleeding tree, only to become one in undeath. A mighty wolf with stars for eyes standing alone before a blizzard, its pack dead and broken.  

She fell further, past an endless swirl of damned souls, past the march of countless skeletal feet. She was choking for breath, for life, even as all around her turned to death and nothing remained but a great skull, lit by a pair of terrible, glowing eyes…

With a great wrench of will Alissea pulled herself back, collapsing on the bank and gulping in air as though she had been drowning. Her heart raced as she struggled to comprehend what she had just seen, who she had just seen.

“I saw him,” she gasped. “The lord of the dead. Nagash. I saw him…”

Still cold as ice Alissea clambered to her feet and brushed her golden hair away from her eyes. She turned to the ancient treelord, her hands shaking.

“The dead are coming for us. For all the living.”

“Yes,” Dru’nuril agreed, settling back against the cavern wall with a sigh like a rockslide. “It is so. The Great Withering has begun.”

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“From what I have been able to gather, the Great Eagles of Ghyran were once a common species, making their nests in mountain peaks and forest boughs. Highly intelligent and capable of understanding several languages, in the Age of Myth they made pacts with the major powers of the reach, acting as scouts and messengers for both the Western Khazalid Empire and the aelves of Thardeia. Some tales even suggest that the duardin were known to ride and fight from the backs of Great Eagles – a ludicrous notion, as I am sure you will agree, dear reader!

Alas, the dark times before the coming of Sigmar’s Tempest were not kind to these gargantuan raptors, and nowadays they are all but extinct. I am told that some still survive in Thardeia, and with the return of Delthas’ heir to Summerhold have reaffirmed their old alliance with the aelves. Whether or not this is true is, I believe, immaterial; it is the flying creatures of Azyr, such as the noble Aetherwing, that shall prove our truest allies in claiming the skies for our lord Sigmar, rather than the fickle beasts of Ghyran.”

– Excerpt from A Treatise on the Westreach, Chapter XVII: Native Beasts of the Reach, by Arvel Prine, Azyrite scholar


So, in an effort to try and get through some of the stuff in my backlog, I painted up a pair of Great Eagles. Which is a drop in the ocean, really, but you've got to start somewhere I suppose xD

The first eagle:


And he has a friend:


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That short story was fantastic @Davariel, and it fit perfectly into the malign portents style. Tbh, had I not known the source and you had told me it was one of the MP stories, I would have believed it.

I'm loving the little excerpts too. Some very nice world building going on. Its making me want to expand the background to my own stories.

Will follow this thread with interest!

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@Brad Gamma - not sure I deserve such high praise, but thanks all the same! Feels like we're in a bit of a narrative Renaissance right now - there seem to be more fantastic stories and bits of background being posted around here than ever. I'll certainly look forward to what else you come up with!

But for now, on to new stuff...

“The northernmost land in the Westreach is the Vale of Kjaarthal, a place of pristine tundra and pine forest, surrounded by majestic, snow-capped mountains. For some four centuries it has been home to the Helards, a warlike people who migrated there after their homeland came under attack by the servants of Chaos. The saga of their first king Kjaar, who led seven hundred and six ships across the Soulfrost Sea to settle the vale, is a tale they boast of loudly and often. Yet although they are seafarers without match, the Helards are a rather primitive folk. Their preferred building materials are wood and thatch, and they are barely more civilised than the many wild tribes that roam the Mortal Realms.  

                You might wonder, dear reader, how it is such a backward people were able to survive the long Age of Chaos. The answer is simple: shielded by natural terrain and magical blizzards, they have made themselves practically inaccessible. There are but two routes into Kjaarthal – the first is by sea, but only the Helards themselves have proven capable of navigating the terrifying Bjldfang Strait. The second route is through a narrow mountain pass in the vale’s south – but to reach it, one must venture through the fey forest of Thardeia, a nigh impossible task…”

– Excerpt from A Treatise on the Westreach, Chapter VII: The Vale of Kjaarthal, by Arvel Prine, Azyrite scholar

More painting, more backlog reduction. This time it's a conversion I'm particularly proud of - a female warrior priest (and a handful of her followers). Sometimes you just have an idea for a character and have to see it through, practicality be damned...

As you may have been able to tell from the above fluff, she's from Kjaarthal - basically my way of indulging my love of Vikings in AoS. I was aiming for a bit of a Lagertha vibe with this model, and while she's not perfect (Glade Guard faces are... annoying) boy am I happy with her.

So without further ado I present Kavess Fireheart, Warrior Priestess of Sigmar, self-appointed bringer of his light to Kjaarthal, and perpetual pain in the neck of the local Jarl:


Another angle showing her pose a bit better:


And the first of her frothing madmen devoted congregation:


One particularly devout nutter has tattooed his scalp with a Sigmarite icon:


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  • 2 weeks later...

Another update - with not one, but two pieces of finished terrain! I painted an Ophidian Archway - a nicely detailed piece with massive gaps that required a boatload of filling. Well worth the effort, I have to admit.

In hindsight I wish I'd picked a more contrasting colour for the metal, but for terrain it's plenty good enough I think:


And a pic from the back:


The other piece of terrain I painted is a section of palisade wall. One of my many ongoing projects is building a modular fort in this style - I plan to add another 2 wall sections, a gate section, and a set of various corners and towers. Rather than do it all at once I pushed ahead and finished this one piece as something of a proof of concept:


A shot of the battlements, with a few minis for scale:


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  • 2 weeks later...

Only a few short years ago the Flesh-eater Courts were virtually unknown in the Westreach, the wholesome and pure energies of Ghyran being anathema to these debased creatures. This changed with the outbreak of civil war in Leynia. As the conflict has escalated, mordants have been drawn from civilisation’s shadow like moths to a flame, glutted by a ready supply of corpse covered battlefields. Nowadays, they are so widely recognised in the strife-ridden kingdom that even children play at being ghoul kings and eating one another in macabre games. 

While this is undoubtedly a problem of grave concern, neither of the claimants to Leynia’s throne can spare the men to deal with the packs of ghouls that roam the kingdom, and nor will they allow outsiders into their lands to do so for them. In this way the peril grows, and the wise look upon the eaters of the dead with great concern, seeing in them another distressing glimpse of death ascendant…


I got around to finishing off the rest of my Flesh-eaters - 3 Horrors and a Ghoul King. I have to say, I don't know how people make entire armies of these models - I was shocked at how little options there are in the Horror/Vargheist kit. Not even any spare heads! But maybe that's just me, I like my models to be unique and can't stand clone syndrome.

Anyway, here are the horrors:


And their leader, the Ghoul King known as the Pretender of Bones. Believing himself to be the rightful heir to the Leynian throne, this abhorrant is continually puzzled by the fact that no one will support his claim 9_9


That's all for now. Comments and thoughts always appreciated!

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