First published in Tales of the Reaching Moon issue #4
Copyright © 1990 by Michael O’Brien
Vivisculpture is the latest artistic rage to tickle the jaded palates of the effete Lunar nobility. Sculptors are tempted by the huge sums offered to discard their usual materials – marble, granite and sandstone – and take up the ultimate media: a living gargoyle.
Vivisculptors take a living gargoyle and, using the traditional tools and instruments of their craft, shape the creature’s stony hide into the likeness of their subject. The gargoyle is then carefully posed and killed. A complicated drying, glazing and firing process ensures the stone-like corpse is preserved for eternity.
Many of the best examples of this artform are of course sequestered in the palaces and mansions of the elite. However, one of the finest vivisculptured works remains on public display in the forum of Raibanth, Silver Shadow. A massive equestrian work (the wyvern mount being carved from a huge, winged gargoyle; the rider, from one smaller and better-proportioned), the piece shows the famed Lunar General Alingans Wulinor, who led his legions to splendid defeat in the Building Wall Battle (1605 S.T.). This work was commissioned by Wulinor’s widow, and was executed by acclaimed sculptor Khameron Malalas, one of the first exponents of the artform. Another work worthy of inspection is a spectacular female nude in the Imperial Museum of Theophany in Mirin’s Cross, Holay. The untitled work was originally intended to be of the Red Goddess herself, but this was opposed on unspecified religious grounds by Icilius Overholy, General Priestess of the Provincial Church. Despite his obvious talent in the medium, the artist, Rogan Josh, has vowed never to work in vivisculpture again.
With a characteristic decadence all their own, the debauchees of House Waxxmoon, first family of Dorkath in Darjiin, have taken the fad one step further, and claimed this refinement as their own. “Living statues” are their innovation, and other connoisseurs are literally panting to get their hands on House Waxxmoon’s master-sculptor, Lorenzo Ducat. Ducat, a heretic dwarf, does not kill his creations. Instead, he trains them to strike a series of delicately-poised stances a sculptor working in traditional materials could not hope to emulate. (A recent private showing of Ducat’s latest series, cunningly likened on certain members of the Waxxmoon family, was praised by the cognoscenti for its combination of stunning verisimilitude and elegant obscenity.)
Recently, an iconoclastic “Cult of Freedom” has been established in Peloria which has vowed to destroy all examples of vivisculpture. Adherents claim that the artform is the pinnacle of slavery, and only by destroying the sculptures will the souls of the gargoyles trapped within be released. These fanatics have yet to express an opinion on the more recent innovation of ‘living statues”.
Unsurprisingly, slave dealers in the Heartlands are finding it increasingly harder to cope with the demand for gargoyles. Once considered useful primarily as a novelty in the arena, a well-proportioned gargoyle may fetch perhaps ten-times the price of just a few years ago. One of the rare wingless gargoyles might fetch even more, because they are much easier to sculpt (the wings have to be carefully removed from the normal gargoyle species). Lately, particularly in Darjiin, slave dealers have taken to training their gargoyles to do simple poses, in the hope that they might catch the eye of Lorenzo Ducat or his buyers. The dull-witted gargoyle is a difficult beast to train, and often the sight of slave dealers putting their stock through their paces is an amusing spectacle for the crowd.
With the current dire shortage of gargoyles in the Heartlands, an excellent way to a quick profit is go gargoyle-hunting. Slavery is a legal and socially-acceptable practise in the Empire, but adventurers will now probably have to go beyond its borders to find gargoyles of any kind (unless they try to steal them from another dealer). Gargoyles are typically found in mountainous regions, and much of the Lunar supply comes from the Rockwoods. Slave caravans have been recently disrupted on their way to market, as members of the Cult of Freedom seek to liberate the gargoyle captives and save them from their cruel fate. Profiteers are advised to remember that the while the tastes of the Lunar upper classes remain characteristically decadent, they are also notoriously fickle, and how long the craze will continue to prosper is anyone’s guess.
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