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Made in us
Crazy Marauder Horseman







My gaming group was unsure how things worked out for Bretonnia as it (along with about 90% of the Warhammer world) died off-screen behind the relatively small but more spectacular destruction wrought on the Empire. So we designed a campaign to explain that. As I was the only player who had both a Bretonnian army and a WoC army, I also wrote the story using the mixed background of my two armies to form the setup for the story. That being said, I was actually pretty happy with the results of the campaign and thought that I might as well post it here as I think it might inspire some reactions (some probably more positive than others). I have already posted a large portion of this story over in the COTEC site, but I've made some rewrites and changes and wanted to post the full story here. Please feel free to comment, snicker at, point out inconsistencies, make fun of, compliment, or otherwise make your (dis)pleasure known regarding the story. I will be posting a new chapter twice a week (every Monday and Thursday) until the story has run its course (which should roughly be about 6-8 weeks), I will post these new chapters as replies to this post. So without further digressions, here is the first chapter in the series:

Chapter1: The Lady Commands


He was dreaming, of that Nicodemus was sure.

He floated through a black abyss that threatened to overwhelm him in its inky embrace. Yet he did not despair, he was a knight of Bretonnia! He had tasted the waters that flowed from the blessed cup of his Lady! He knew no fear in the yawning hole of the darkness around him, instead he patiently waited upon his Goddess’s leisure for she had spoken to him thusly on various occasions throughout his life. Although, if he had been completely honest with himself, he would have admitted that each time was just as unnerving as the previous time.

He did not have to wait long, shades of color began rippling through the blackness and eventually a scene formed in front of Nicodemus’s eyes. In this vision he beheld the image of a man lying in a cell, some kind of prisoner that had been beaten and tortured. His bearing spoke of nobility, perhaps even royalty, and his shoulders were those of a warrior born. Nicodemus watched as the door to his cell opened and a skittering child of Chaos entered the narrow room. The rat-like creature held a strange object in its hand, it pulsated with a faint green light beneath folds of withered cloth that lay over it in a futile gesture of disguising an artifact of great power. Even on the other side of an eternity looking at the scene from the detached visions of his Goddess, Nicodemus could feel the power emanating from the shrouded item. The ratman carefully removed the fabric to reveal a sword with a glowing emerald blade that had runes carved into its surface that writhed and swam in Nicodemus’s vision as if they held a life of their own. Gently, the creature lifted the man’s hand and placed the hilt of the enchanted weapon into it before chittering excitedly and scurrying out of the room.

Nicodemus watched as the man woke and stared first at the open door and then, inevitably, his gaze focused on the weapon in his hand. Gripping the sword tightly, the man pursed his lips and stood, moving towards the door. His feet padded softly against the rock walls as he made his way through the corridors of what was obviously a large stronghold until finally he arrived at a large, sturdy door. Breathing heavily in anticipation, the prisoner slowly opened the door and then Nicodemus saw what lay beyond the portal.

A large humanoid creature sat on a stone throne, its face was more like a skull than anything else, its body enlarged through what seemed to be various mutations. There was something oddly human about the shape, as if it were a distant cousin to humanity. Voluminous purple robes fell across the sitting form in luxurious waves. It seemed to be staring right at the prisoner yet did not stir as the door swung soundlessly open. Like a passing shadow the man crept closer to the throne until he was standing directly in front of the abomination. He raised the glowing sword and prepared to strike. The world held its breath.

As the blow fell on the sitting, skeletal form some sixth sense seemed to stir the would-be corpse to some parody of life. Balefires flickered in the sockets of its eyes and it instantly took in the scene. A breathless scream echoed from the creature and it raised its hand to ward off the blow and in that regard was somewhat successful. The blow deflected off the creature’s wrist, severing the hand at the joint, but flew wide of the intended target. The corpse screamed a raspy cry that shook the very stones of the keep. The scream grew in intensity as Nicodemus clasped his hands over his ears to block out the impossible sound. Higher and higher the noise trembled the very air with discordant notes of pain that set one’s teeth abuzz and a trickle of blood streamed from the prisoner’s eye as he staggered back from his would-be victim. A blackness welled up in the edges of Nicodemus’s vision and threatened to throw him into oblivion when the sound suddenly stopped as the skeletal figure imploded into a thousand particles that washed the room in an eerie green light before disintegrating into the very stone. The prisoner stood slowly and looked around the room in disbelief. The vision faded as he ran out of the chamber, still clutching the strange emerald blade with the caustic runes etched in its surface.

“Thus was Nagash struck down by the King Alcadizzar, a pawn to the Skaven menace that even now threatens the balance of this world,” a soft voice behind Nicodemus caused him to turn slowly, bracing himself for what he knew he would behold. He was disappointed to see another swirling vision before him instead of the majesty of his Lady, but he nevertheless looked into the vision as he knew what was expected of him.

Images flashed before his eyes and he watched as Alcadizzar wandered through the wastes, his own flesh wasting away as he staggered on, his eyes unseeing. Any creature that stood in his path was quickly struck down by the cruel blade that the maddened king held in his hand. Scenes played out of the King’s life, a short and cruel existence thereafter that ended with a violent death brought upon him by his ongoing addiction to the power that the sword granted him. Upon his demise the blade fell back into the hands of the Skaven and was whisked to their underground cavernous cities where warlords squabbled over the weapon with a demonic fervor.

“The weapon was too powerful for any one mortal creature to handle for any given time and so it was quickly passed between the short-lived skaven like a bad disease until it came to a certain gray seer by the name of Karsak, who saw an opportunity.” The vision shifted and showed a rat-creature with curling ram’s horns sprouting from the top of his skull holding the blade. “Using the blade as a template, this creature forged a new, more powerful version of this Fellblade, by utilising copious amounts of wyrdstone and making several demonic pacts that granted this new blade ever greater amounts of power from both this world and the world beyond.” Nicodemus watched as the new weapon took shape. Karsak summoned several demons who each in turn imbued the blade with even greater power all the while snarling at the rat wizard with an unfettered fury.

“How was he able to control the demons?” Nicodemus queried.

“By using forbidden, long forgotten sorceries and an unusual amount of bravery from such a cowardly and mantic race. However, these rites proved his undoing. Fatigue from the ongoing exposure to these two powerful artifacts mixed with anticipation of the weapon’s completion led Karsak to make a fatal error in his final summoning. He did not complete the ritual correctly and the demon burst through its bonds and tore Karsak to shreds rather than imbue the blade with its final enchantment. When his remains were finally uncovered the blades were seen as simply magical weapons and were again passed from chieftain to warlord until it came to rest in one of the nest cities underneath your beloved Bretonnia. It was here that the Lichemaster Heinrich Kemmler discovered the blade during a raid on the ratmen. Realising what he held, Kemmler constructed a powerful scabbard that was capable of containing the unfinished weapon and he stole it away to Mousillon among one of his many caches in the vast necropolis cities that have been built there. His intentions were to keep the blade in order to challenge Nagash himself should he ever rise again, but Kemmler’s demise was foreseen long ago and has recently come to pass, much to our dismay.”

Nicodemus shook his head. “I do not understand why you are showing me these things.”

“You will understand, listen and it will become clear.” The images before Nicodemus shifted and showed an infernal gathering of undead ghouls and elven warriors gripped in the throes of battle. Far behind them some infernal ritual was being performed, a dark amethyst light lending a foreboding light to the massacre happening all around it. “Nagash has risen again, the original Fellblade was a key component to his resurrection, among other infernal ingredients,” at this the Lady’s voice seemed to sneer in disgust, “but now the lord of the undead is once again made mortal and his existence has become a key piece of this world’s salvation.” At this Nicodemus could not hide his shock.

“You mean this abomination will save the world?” He sputtered.

“I mean that he will be part of its salvation. But not the only one.”

“How can that be? He defies the very order of nature! How can his continued existence be a good thing?"

“That is not for you to question, my servant, or have you forgotten your place?”

Nicodemus bowed his head. “I am sorry, my Lady! Please forgive me!” There was a long pause that seemed to stretch over the knight like stones placed on his shoulders.

“You are forgiven, but you shall not question me again,” Nicodemus nodded and the voice continued, “The Skaven have long been aware of the loss of their fabled weapon and have come to search for its copy, knowing that it was last seen being taken by Kemmler into Mousillon. They have sent an army to reclaim the weapon, and to destroy anyone who gets in their way. The Ruinous powers have also taken note of this weapon, realizing its potential use against their enemy, for they see Nagash as a threat to their Grand Game. They, too, have dispatched their champions to rain down destruction on your homeland. While my champion, Gilles le Breton has gathered the armies of your nation to him and prepares for the onslaught, he is unable to stop the coming violence as he prepares for another mission for which I have prepared him. You are the last hope for your people in this regard. I want you to go to Mousillon and find the Blade. You must keep it safe from the grasping hands of Chaos. It is imperative that you do so. If not, all may be lost.”

Nicodemus raised his head, at last his eyes fell on the glory that was his Lady.

“I will do as you command, my Lady.” His eyes rested only a moment on the beauty before him before once again inclining his head. A soft, glowing hand reached down and once again lifted his head so that his eyes met hers.

“There is one thing more that you must see, and it pains me to show you.” Her face was pulled down in a concerned look, Nicodemus nodded.

“I am ready for whatever you would require of me,” he replied. In an instant the scenery changed and Nicodemus found himself sitting in a tent beside the prone form of a woman. Her once pretty face was thinned by sickness and her eyes were closed. Her chest rose and fell in shallow gasps and her hair, normally silky and voluminous, was now plastered to her skin with sweat. The features and details of this vision were so sharp that it took Nicodemus a moment to realize why: this was a memory, not a vision. Nicodemus watched as he took a damp cloth and laid it across the woman’s forehead, he had no control over the movement. He couldn’t, it was a memory, and he couldn’t change a memory even if he wanted when the Lady had summoned it. The woman groaned and shifted weakly on her bedroll. This was Kalia, the husband to Nicodemus’s great friend, and she was dying. That could only mean that this memory…

“No! Please! Do not make me relive this. I beg you!” Nicodemus screamed from behind his eyes, the sound never leaving through his mouth because he had not said such things in his memory. A sudden gust of wind pushed open the tent flap and Nicodemus turned to see the startling visage of Kalia’s husband.

Aantar had changed, he now wore a strange set of intricate, baroque armor that was tinged the color of midnight, a regal blue cape swirled behind him. But this was not the most remarkable change. His head was now completely shorn and his skin was milky white, but the most startling thing of all were his eyes. Once a bright blue they were now a bloody red, and crimson rivulets ran down his face as if he had wept caustic tears that had carved their path through the skin of his cheeks down past his chin. Aantar barely saw his friend.

“How is she?” He asked, his voice as dry as the barren wasteland outside of the tent.

“Not good, what did you find in there?” Nicodemus’s voice screamed urgency. Aantar did not even respond, simply brushed his friend aside and knelt by his wife’s sleeping form. Gently he scooped his hand behind her head and carefully lifted her up, placing his other arm around her waist he hugged her feverish body to him. Nicodemus watched again as sanguine tears tore themselves from bloodshot eyes as Aantar’s body began to shake from uncontrollable sobs. Slowly the armored giant began rocking back and forth, his body a gentle metronome to the soft sounds of his grief. In time Nicodemus heard him beginning to whisper something softly into her ear.

“I’m so sorry! I tried so hard…. I really did… I can’t…” He buried his face into her hair, hugging her tight with the hand behind her head, the other hand coming out to rest on his belt, “There is no other way, though.” Then in one swift motion, Aantar slid his knife from its sheath and rammed it firmly into his wife’s heart.

The world tilted, and the clarity of memory shifted to the exaggeration of a dream. Nicodemus knew this dream well, he’d had this nightmare regularly for the past ten years, ever since the memory had become too horrible for him to remember properly. Nicodemus’s body flew to its feet.

“What have you done!?” He accused. Aantar slowly laid the body of his wife down and looked up at his friend. Outside of the tent, Nicodemus was vaguely aware of the sounds of steel on steel and the screams of dying men.

“It was the only way to save her, Nicodemus. Nurgle had her in his grasp and I was promised that if I killed her that she would be left free, that the gods would not concern themselves with her. It was the only way! You have to believe me!” Nicodemus stared in abject horror as the terrible words tumbled out of his friend’s mouth.

“The gods showed me the end of all things, they showed me so many things, all of them terrible. I have seen how this world dies, and it does so to the flowing of blood and the screams of the butchered. I brought her mercy in denying her those things!” Nicodemus stood back further and drew his sword from its scabbard, the metallic smell of the oiled blade filling the tension between the two warriors. Aantar searched Nicodemus’s face for something, and his face fell when he did not find it.

“I will not resist the commands of my lord, southlander. If you dare bring steel against me you’d best be prepared to use it!” Aantar snarled and leapt at Nicodemus with the bloody dagger still in his hand, his sword flying free of his waist in an equally quick manner. The dream shifted the landscape and somehow they were now outside, fighting across the white dunes while a maelstrom swirled about them. Shadows of Nicodemus’s men fighting against great hulking brutes dotted the peripherals of the duel between the former friends, each one ended with a bloody scream followed by a meaty thunk and then silence. Nicodemus was barely keeping track of Aantar’s blades, each strike barely deflected, narrowly dodged. The old knight could only see to his defense, any attacks were purely reflexive in nature. In the nightmarish fashion of this memory turned dream, Aantar’s features were twisted and demonic with the exception of his eyes which combined to make his entire visage that much more terrifying. His all-too-human eyes staring out at Nicodemus, pleading with him to end it all.

As he knew it would happen, a dried up dead tree appeared behind Nicodemus. Twisting his blade to the left, Aantar’s riposte tore Nicodemus’s blade from his hands and in one smooth motion the northman grabbed his hands at the wrist and with his dagger pierced through both of them in one fluid motion with such force that the blade carried through into the trunk of the dead tree. Inside his own mind Nicodemus screamed.

“Why show me this?” He yelled, “what purpose does it serve?”

“To remind you of your promise,” came the reply

“What promise?” Nicodemus watched what came next with a falling sensation in his stomach.

“The promise you made to your friend. The promise I am calling upon you now to fulfill.” The Lady’s voice was fading. Nicodemus could not tear his attention away from the events unfolding before him, he knew them by heart already but each time the pain was renewed as if there could be no emotional callous to cover such trauma. Aantar bent slowly to be level with Nicodemus’s ear, the fateful words dropped from his mouth in a hushed whisper.

“I will help to bring about the End Times.” Aantar paused, his eyes showing the internal struggle that resulted in his next words.

“Please, please stop me, my friend.” Aantar’s words trembled as he spoke. The last thing Nicodemus remembered was the searing pain in his stomach as Aantar’s sword buried itself to the hilt.

* * * * *

“My lord?” The voice startled Nicodemus out of his reverie. Weeks had gone by since that dream and yet it had been so vivid as to cause his neck to break out in cold sweats whenever he called upon the memory. Looking to the side Nicodemus saw his ward, Gregor, riding beside him with a troubled look on his face.

“I’m fine,” Nicodemus replied, his hand scrubbing his eyes and wiping his forehead as he spoke, “what news?”

“We’ve just received word from our scouts that the dwarves will be here in an hour.” Gregor continued his sideways look at Nicodemus as he spoke. “Also, in a strange turn of events, a small elven fleet has anchored in our harbor, they seek an audience with the local lord. Seeing how Master Grier has escaped this mortal realm, I thought you would have to suffice.”

“Elves? What on earth could they be doing here?” A small ember of hope stirred itself in Nicodemus’s breast.

“That sounds like a question that you can ask them. They are waiting for you down by the docks.”

Nicodemus nodded and waved his dismissal. He looked around the streets of Mousillon, a dirty city on the edge of swamplands where they met the eastern seashore. A port harbor made up the vast majority of the cityscape, one that was dotted with dirty houses and capricious towers. Here and there smaller necropolises dotted the landscape. Nicodemus had pushed his men hard to arrive in good time. He had left his post in the Borderlands to arrive here, and the march had not been easy. On top of that, many of the knights he had brought with him had deserted in favor of seeking to answer their king’s call for a host to march to the Empire’s aid. He had little hope in victory for the coming weeks that he knew would be bloody. He had sent for aid from the dwarven holds to the south, and they had responded swiftly that they would send what aid they could. The dwarves were indebted to him for saving several refugees, not least of which was a high thane’s son, during a raid on a skaven nest. Nicodemus was glad that the dwarves were so dedicated to honoring their word. Shaking his head and sighing, the old knight spurred his horse in the direction of the docks. With any luck he might be able to convince the elves to join the fight as well. Either way, the coming weeks promised nothing more than hard work and blood for those willing to endeavor.

This message was edited 5 times. Last update was at 2015/08/27 15:34:53


   
Made in us
Crazy Marauder Horseman







Chapter 2: The March East

Nicodemus hesitated before opening the door. He was getting too old for all of this. Over fifty summers he had seen, and fighting had been a part of every one of them. His bones ached from old war wounds and breaks that hadn’t healed correctly, his peppered beard hid more than its share of scars and his eyes hid a deep reservoir of regret. He rubbed at the deep puncture scars in the center of his palms as he steadied himself for the residents in the room waiting for him. He wasn’t sure he could save his home from this threat as he had in the years previous. A large portion of his troops had left to answer the new King Gilles’ call to arms, and he had been left with so few men. It was a miracle that the Dwarves and Elves had agreed to help him, but it galled him to no end that the salvation of his home lay in the hands of foreigners. Taking a deep breath, he reached up and pushed the door open before stepping through.

A group of sour-faced Dwarves looked across the room at the Elven war council that had convened to discuss the state of affairs, all grumpy males save one equally sour looking female. A large table with a map and several small models to represent armies stood in between the two groups in a room lit by candles that gave off a golden glow and illuminated the smoke coming from the pipes of the dwarves. The Elves held a look of barely contained disdain for the shorter elder race across the room from them, and covered their noses from the odious stench of the tobacco, twisting their faces in offense at having to share a room with the stunted creatures. Nicodemus reflected on the irony of their situation, it seems a heavy rain can make even cats and dogs take shelter together, he thought to himself. The Bretonnian lord wasted no time and immediately launched into his report.

“My lords, I cannot express in words my gratitude that you have accepted our plea for help against the incursions brooking against us.” Nicodemus paused to look each of the room’s occupants in the eyes as he said this to ensure that he offended none of them by making them think he was not referring to them all. “My scouts have reported on the Chaos army to the east is making steep advances and is marching steadily for the coast, it seems. We cannot allow this. At the same time the vile ratmen are raiding settlements to the south within the Barony of Mousillon where we suspect the artifact that they seek is located. Both armies are aware of the general location of the Felblade, and we cannot allow it to fall into their hands. I have dispatched my own troops to hold back and help my people evacuate before the coming armies, but they will not be able to hold back the enemy for long. With that in mind I would request your aid in this by sending the Elves to the East to Soude to evacuate the population there back here to Mousillon where they will be safer and more easily defended. I fear that you will arrive there just ahead of the Chaos army, and there will be bloodshed from there. To the Dwarves I would ask that you travel south to Turris Vigilans to gather in the hamlets around there to the capital city of Mousillon for the same reasons, as we have noticed that the Skaven have been progressing steadily northward in their attacks.”

A tall figure dressed in white silk with a silver breastplate and gold filigree throughout his clothing stepped forward and looked at the map as Nicodemus outlined his plan.

“You mean to send us into the maw of this Chaos invasion while the halflings are tasked with taking care of your pest problem?” He demanded in a voice that dripped with insincerity.

“Ye were going to fight the bloody nor’men before yer worthless navigators washed you up on these shores an’y how, what diff’rance do it make if ya do it here or in a diff’rent manling kingdom?” A surly dwarf figure thundered from beneath a massive red beard. Nicodemus sighed inwardly, bracing himself for the coming argument.

“I am merely implying that it seems as though our tasks are of a disproportionate scale, and it seems as though my troops will be facing a far greater risk than yours. I simply would like to know why the young Lord feels that we are more capable of taking care of this problem, while you get stuck playing the role of exterminator.” The Elf’s mouth rippled slightly, the closest thing to a smile Nicodemus had seen him come. Nicodemus’ temper was rising, he rankled at the Elven Prince’s condescending tone, but mostly he was upset at the time and inconsistency the alliance was already showing, they didn’t have time for this. Nicodemus struggled to pull himself back before he offended either of the dignitaries by screaming at them.

“To the fires with ye, ya beardless she-male! I’ll put mah’ axe to yer throat and shave yer worthless heid fra’ yer een more worthless shoulders and take care a’ both problems on mah’ own! We dinnae need yer frilly white frocks gettin’ sulli’d in this.” The Dwarf gripped at the large axe at his waist and stepped forward menacingly. The Elf’s smile became an amused smirk as he delicately laid his hand on the hilt of his sword, another Elf stepped forward and grabbed his free arm as if to restrain him and shot the offending Elf a warning glance. Nicodemus stepped forward and placed himself between the two.

“That is enough!” Nicodemus thundered. The two grudging eldritch races paid him no heed and continued to advance on each other, their voices rising to a dull roar as each one attempted to speak over the other. The Elf, having shook off his advisor, began to draw his sword, whether for menacing purposes or for actual threat of violence could not be measured, as before the blade was fully out of its sheath a flash of movement to Nicodemus’ right produced a ragged old knight with a simple yet efficient knife at the Elf’s throat.

‘Drop de blade” the grizzled knight growled menacingly at the shocked Elf, who snarled contemptuously, but slid his blade home into its scabbard.

“Thank you, Sir Grimme,” Nicodemus breathed, sweat began trickling down his neck and back as his heart continued to pound in his temples in anticipation of the sudden movement coming to blows. “Now, Prince Lianthur, I hope that your humours will not unbalance themselves in such a choleric way towards my allies again while you are part of this alliance?” The Elf did not even deign to reply, a savage snarl making a stark contrast on his chiseled features, Nicodemus sighed and continued. “I need your elves, with their speed, to march with a company of my knights. Unfortunately, the dwarfs do not have your ability to reach the settlement before the Chaos reaches it first. As it stands it will be a hard, forced march for us to make it there now. The dwarfs and Sir Grimme with his soldiers to defend the closer settlement and buy the population time to get to a safer location. If we are to save lives, however, we must leave now! Gather what troops you will and I shall accompany you with my retinue of Grail Knights to help if we can. I remind you that you have both given your oaths to aid me in this, and I hold you to them. I will not speak of this indiscretion again. Do not let your old rivalries prevent you from honoring your words.” With that, Nicodemus turned and strode from the room.

* * *

Lianthur shifted uncomfortably in his saddle as the military column filtered slowly around him. He stared balefully across the way as Nicodemus conferred with Lianthur’s battle commander, some prince whose name that he hadn’t bothered remembering. How dare that inferior beast humiliate him as he had back in the planning chambers! Lianthur nursed his wounded pride as dark thoughts began to circle like the crows overhead behind his darkened eyes. So absorbed in his own imaginings, Price Lianthur did not hear the muttered whispers of alarm and the sudden, tangible shift in the mood of the troops. The Elf did not stir from beyond his own private visions until he heard a cry from nearby. Only then did he smell the smoke, and looking up he beheld a vision of Hell. The city of Soude was located within a mountain forest.

That forest was now a rolling kaleidoscope of angry flames.

Nicodemus broke away from the battle commander and came at a gallop towards Lianthur, shouting as he came.

“Prince Lianthur!” He bellowed “, I am riding ahead to secure the village, I don’t believe the fires have reached Soude, yet, and we need to get those people out of danger and headed towards Mousillon. I have spoken with your battle commander and he has agreed that this is prudent, he will bring up your troops to hold off the Chaos invaders who are approaching behind the fire, there is a small outpost that may have a few survivors from the fire further east of Soude. I am leaving a company of my knights in your command, use them as you see fit!” Without waiting for a response, Nicodemus turned and spurred his horse towards the mountain, his bodyguard of Grail Knights fell in behind him. Lianthur sneered at the receding dust clouds trailing behind Nicodemus.

Several hours later found the elven force approaching the burnt out remains of the outpost. A few mostly destroyed buildings still stood, damaged but repairable, and the outpost tower which was the only truly defensible position still stood largely unscathed. As they approached the door to the tower burst open and an old soldier in rusted armor came hobbling out to greet them. Behind him various women and children filtered out, interspersed among even dustier and more ancient looking soldiers than the first who even now scampered towards them.

“Oh thank the Lady!” he cried as he got within earshot and fell to his knees. “, Please masters! Help us! The barbarians are advancing on us even now! From the top of the tower we could see a horde of them coming, they’ll be here within the hour!” The man continued babbling for another few minutes before Lianthur waved him disdainfully away. The battle commander took the old man off to the side and brought up a small contingent of warriors. He ordered these elves to accompany the survivors of the village while they met up with the survivors from Soude and make their way to Castle Bastonne, that the main body of the army would meet up with them en route to there, once they had given them a head start by fighting off the advance party. Lianthur chose to accompany them, leaving the battle commander to have full control of the battlefield. If one listened closely, one could hear the distant drums of the advancing enemy.

* * *

Grimme stared out across the fields surrounding the small town where the Dwarven miners claimed that the Skaven would be attacking. They cited a great number of reasons why they felt that this would be the first place they would attack, but Grimme didn’t understand any of it. The only thing that he needed to know was if the commander of the dwarfs believed it, which he did. So here he sat, in a hamlet outside of the mostly ruined city of Mousillon that was a regular resting site for travelling patrols. A lonely stone tower stood next to the road and a few scattered buildings lay further back from there. The fetid marshes stank as an easterly breeze carried the rotting stink of decay from out of the wetted fenlands that plagued this countryside. On top of that the sense of decay was only enhanced by the above ground cemeteries that littered the landscape, the army had passed several on the road to the hamlet where they now stood. The dank marshes made it difficult for the Skaven to tunnel, thus necessitating a land based assault. The miners had informed the army that the Skaven were fast approaching unsuitable ground for tunneling and would breach the surface, probably to attack the nearest settlement, which as fate would have it was this very outpost where Grimme now stood. The villagers here had already been evacuated and now all that was left was the terrible waiting game before the battle. The dwarven lines were already formed and ready.

Grimme rather liked the dour nature of the dwarves, it fit his own rather nicely. He’d fought alongside them before when he was with his lord in the border princes and had gone to assist the nearby holds against the raiding armies of the greenskins. He had felt for sure that he would die there, that he would never see his homeland again, even though he no longer knew this land as he had in his youth. Not since accompanying Lord Nicodemus on his crusade, and after him being chosen by the Lady for a special purpose Grimme had yet to spend more than a fortnight in his beloved homeland until now. Yet, now that he was home, it was not the home he remembered. The civil war had torn his home apart. Gone were the days of idle contentment among the commoners and earnest bravado among the nobility, vanity had given way to bitterness, ease to suffering and resentment. The loyalty that bound the knighthoods together like brothers was shattered, and the coming destruction loomed over the land like a cancerous shadow eating away at the hearts of men. The peasants felt it coming, too, and their craven hearts were difficult to bolster even in times of peace much less now when the world seemed to be coming to an end and everything they knew had been turned on its head.

Grimme shook his head and went down to inspect his troops, it was something comfortable, something that he’d grown used to, something he felt proficient doing. The call would be coming soon that the ratmen would be marching on them, and then the work would begin.

* * *

Skitr’sneek whined as he began to climb out of the hole. The army that his warlord had given him was completely inadequate to his status, he felt, and this slight would not go unpunished. But for now, the young chieftain would hold his mouth and follow orders like a good lapdog, waiting for the opportune moment to strike. At this moment his troops were on the verge of assaulting a man-thing outpost that was likely not expecting such an enormous army to come crashing down on them. If it weren’t for this stinking wet marshes that prevented the tunneling of his slaves, Skitr would have simply come up from underneath them, as it was the poor wretches would see their death coming. This filled the chieftain with a devilish delight.

This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 2015/08/10 18:01:21


   
Made in us
Crazy Marauder Horseman







Chapter 3: The Burning of Soude

Prince Daggon dismounted from his horse and walked over to the tower that embodied the only defensible position in the town, the rest of the buildings were burnt and in various states of disrepair, it looked as though the townsfolk had made a good effort to preserve their homes during the fire and that the village would be able to be repaired if his kinsmen would be able to fight off the incoming barbarians. Daggon called up his large unit of spearmen and his battle council. He was more concerned for the wellbeing of those refugees than he truly was for the town, such simple buildings would be easy to replace and the villagers who had called this home would be able to rebuild, however their lives were far more fragile and needed the greater amount of protection. Daggon convened a quick council and dismissed all of his army to guard the retreating peasants but his unit of spearmen and two of his captains: his brother Xiomar would introduce the barbarians to their doom by holding aloft the colors of their kingdom so that the enemy would know who it was that held the knife to their throat, and Alred the Archmage would stay to bleed out magical judgment against the northmen. Daggon also gave orders to the Master of the Menagerie to bring out one of the lone phoenixes as well as his beloved companion Archaiadynami, a legendary star dragon to help assist in defending the town. The arrangements were hastily made and soon the rest of the army was quickly marching to the west in order to meet up with Nicodemus and the rest of the refugees, Lianthur seemed all too relieved to be leaving the field of battle. The chosen warriors that remained settled in to wait for the coming horde, they did not have to wait long.

* * * *

On a charred hill sat a repulsive figure on a repulsive mount. White, leprous skin sloughed over bones and muscle that tore at the slightest movement, causing black, poisonous blood to seep out through a thousand wounds. Behind his grated face mask, Gethus Withertongue smiled at the contingent of elves that stood against him. In his right hand Gethus held a wicked looking scythe, and Gethus’ concealed grin became even wider as he slid the cruel curved blade across his exposed arm, coating the blade in his corrosive juices. Turning, he motioned to the warriors that came behind him forward and watched as the Slaaneshi riders galloped off at breakneck speed towards their chosen quarries, the false courage that their patron god had instilled in them spurring them towards the largest target on the field. Close behind them came Aantar’s Sorrowful Blades, knights who killed remorselessly and were one time friends of Gethus, but now they were simply pieces on the game board. Gethus watched as the Elven spearmen took refuge within the sturdy stone tower that dominated the town’s landscape as he marched forward on top of his rotting steed beside the Tzeentchian knights. Behind them rode a contingent of Khorne-touched Ogres, their bloodshot eyes rolling in anticipation of the coming violence, beside them rode a companionship of fellow Khorne worshippers atop the fabled juggernauts, the hissing and clanking of metallic joints resounded dully as they crashed across the ruined landscape. A mutant gorebeast tugged at the reins of the charioteer who guided the unwieldy but powerful vessel behind the ape-like creature. On the far right, the berzerkers of the Bloody Fist Clan advanced with their Chieftain Kholer at their head.


Alred watched the advancing horde draw closer from his vantage within the tower, and began to plot how best he might serve his prince in battle. He noticed the armoured vanguard of knights closing in on the tower. Gathering mystical energies, Alred used his long years of training to curse the galloping marauders bearing the marks of Slaanesh on their banner, it was instantly obvious as their steeds began to tire and their advanced slowed, leaving them directly in the path of the charging knights behind them. Drawing on all of his magical reserves, Alred prepared an even greater curse to fall upon those blue-armored knights and in doing so he reached too deeply into the Winds of Magic. Instantly whispers began to echo throughout the recesses of the wizard’s mind. Alred focused on completing the curse and as the words of power echoed out of his mouth, his eyes ablaze with power, the curse descended upon the charging knights as they felt their limbs tire and their constitutions slow, the impetus of their charge was blunted to a near standstill as magic sapped their energy and their will to carry on. However, Alred still had so much power left over from such a deep reservoir from which he had pulled, especially for so basic a spell as the one he had cast. Desperate to release this power, it clamored within Alred and he attempted several small cantrips in an effort to dissipate the remaining flood of power within him, but it was not enough. The whisperings grew louder, they were chanting something. Alred felt the power still building within him, it was too much! It was going to burn his corpse to a cinder if it was not released! With a sudden cry, Alred released the power in a flamin spectacle which turned several spearmen around him to dust. The power streamed out of Alred while his screams continued until a bright flash of light lit up the room and caused the remaining Elven warriors to shield their eyes. When they looked back the wizard was gone.


Fuelled by a supernatural bravado, the marauder horsemen charged forward into the gaping maw of Prince Daggon’s draconic steed. The affair was short and bloody, the elven prince ripped through the slavering horsemen in a matter of seconds, torsos with missing limbs and heads were cast about in a shower of gore as the dragon and its rider tore through the northmen as if they were made of wet parchment. The knights, slowed by the draining spell that Alred had cast on them before being sucked away from this plain, attempted to charge forward and storm the tower. Gethus charged forward alone, leaving the safety of the knights’ flanks behind him in an attempt to lure the elven prince into the open where the cavalry would be able to flank the prize of the enemy general. Daggon signalled the Phoenix forward and it flew over the ranks of Chaos Ogres that were advancing on the right flank, bombarding them with streaming lines of fire. One of the ogres began bellowing in pain as tongues of flame began licking the flesh from his bones. The rest of his group barely even noticed his absence as they charged towards the nearest building. The gorebeast let out a bleeting yell and charged the long brick building before him, it managed to shatter a single support beam in a flurry of blows but overall the building remained relatively unscathed.


Bellowing a challenge, Gethus stormed through the doors to the tower. A squadron of spearmen moved to bar his passage. Gethus sneered as the cowardly elven bannerman slunk back up the stairs, denying the pox-ridden sorcerer his quarry. Swinging his scythe about in wide arcs, Gethus sliced into one spearman’s shoulder causing him to cry out for a moment before that cry became strangled as the elf began to make choking sounds before falling to the ground and vomiting blood upon the lacquered floor. Gethus smiled before the press of bodies against him pushed him back out the door.To the east of the town a group of Kurgen marauders approached a small manor house. Their chieftain, a hulking brute by the name of Kholer, and his Bloody Knuckles clansmen immediately fell to the act of destruction. The frenzied chieftain took his large axe in both of his powerful hands and in a series of herculean strikes he managed to cut several of the supporting beams that held the house upright. The building groaned as the majority of its weight teetered on the brink of collapse, the rest of the Bloody Knuckle berzerkers fell on the final support and in a cacophony of splintering wood the building collapsed in a series of shuddering crashes. The existing lamps that had been filled to light the darkened corridors of the building soon began to catch on the dried timbers of the destroyed building and in moments the entire set of ruins was alight with a shivering fire that billowed dark smoke into the evening air. A similar scenario had played out on the west end of town where the frenzied ogres laid waste to a stone tavern and managed to bring down the older building in a flurry of angry blows against the inanimate wood and rock that supported the old edifice. Prince Daggon cursed from his vantage atop his dragon as he witnessed both buildings fall, knowing that if any more fell to the same fate there wouldn’t be any point in defending the ruins of a former outpost. In his distraction, one of the Khorne warriors atop a juggernaut managed to get a blow past the writhing scales of Archaiadynami’s armored bulk and through Daggon’s own personal plate suit, biting deep into his side. He bit back a gasp of pain and thrust his spear tip through the eyeslits of his assailant while his faithful friend dispatched the berzerker’s metal mount in a series of violent clawings.


With the skullcrusher companionship dispatched, the elven prince charged the chariot team whose gorebeast was raking its fists against the side of a nearby inn. Daggon struck out with his blade and caught several fine hits against the mutated monstrosity in front of him. The pair of warriors manning the beast’s chariot struck out at the prince, and in his single-minded focus of slaying the creature of Chaos before him he was distracted when a warrior clad in black armor swung an overhead blow that caught the prince squarely in the chest, biting deep and knocking the air from his lungs. Archaiadynami roared in anger and pounced on the chariot crew, tearing the leather strips that attached the gorebeast to the chariot. Freed from his confines, the giant ape-like monstrosity used the massive trunk of the dragon’s body as he would a tree and pulled himself up next to Prince Daggon, who lay half stunned in his saddle and made a feeble attempt to defend himself against the onslaught raised by the muscle-bound creature. A resounding crack echoed as the gorebeast landed a hard punch against the side of the prince’s face. Daggon’s eyes rolled back in his head and his body tumbled limply from his saddle. Archaiadynami screamed in rage and tossed the ruined corpses of the chariot crew away from him as his jaws quickly closed around the gorebeast’s massive head. With a sickening crunch the gorebeast’s body went still and the dragon tossed the beast’s corpse away as it roared its defiance into the dying light of the evening. The dragon gathered up the limp form of his fallen master with a gentleness that belied his great form and looked around for further prey to satiate his need for vengeance. Looking to his left he saw the sorcerer of Nurgle still trying to pound his way into the tower that the spearmen were guarding. At the same time, the Phoenix spiralled around in his latest sweep of the town and spied the same sorcerer, marking him as the next target.


Gethus’ face was a twisted mask of rage. His magics had availed him little against the occupants of the tower, and thus far he had been unable to gain access to the building. In a moment of distraction, the sorcerer looked to his left and saw not only the graceful form of a Phoenix bearing down on him, but that of an enraged dragon snarling as it blazed across the ground in his direction. Making haste, Gethus leapt atop his steed and galloped away in retreat. Seeing Kholer’s marauders marching towards the tower, Gethus made to use them as a distraction for his pursuers. Galloping through their ranks, the fleeing sorcerer used the Kurgan as a shield for his flight. The phoenix crashed into their ranks and ripped two of their warriors to shreds within the first seconds of the melee. The berzerkers howled in bloodlust, their sub-chieftain scored two direct hits on the fiery bird’s neck, causing the magical creature to reel in pain. Kholer stepped up and delivered several more key strokes to the injured monster. Baffled and in pain, the flaming creature attempted to take flight but its wounds were too great and the howling bloodlust of the Bloody Knuckles was too strong, the Phoenix was cut down under a pile of angry bodies seeking to be the first to claim the beast’s head.


Archaiadynami, upon seeing the cowardly sorcerer flee, instead adjusted his course to pursue another tempting target. Kindle Red Hair had been blasting away at the various buildings utilising his mild talents in fire magic. Watching with glee as the ogres tore through the inn that the gorebeast had failed to destroy and sent a small snarl of fire in the direction of the newly formed ruins, laughing as he watched the already dry wood smoke and then burst into flames, adding to the ongoing blaze that was consuming the city. It wasn’t until the dragon was upon him did the fire sorcerer notice his impending doom. As Kindle turned to flee Archaiadynami rent at him with his dagger-like claws, slicing down the sorcerer’s back. Rearing onto his hind legs, the dragon buffeted the chaos worshipper, the force of the blow sending the chaos worshipper flying through the air to land among the stick-like ruins of a blood forest that weakly clawed at the sorcerer’s body as he lay motionless.



Gethus stopped and turned back to observe the battle, his flight had nearly taken him from the field, and he would not have his troops see him fleeing in such an ignominious way. Turning, the plague sorcerer prepared a powerful spell in order to topple the last building still standing in the Bretonnian town: the stone Guard tower. However, the Winds of Magic were too strong in that area and the Chaos worshipper drew too deeply upon them, causing the fabric of reality to shudder around him. With a sudden cry, Gethus simply tried to release the excess energy, allowing the spell to flow through him in any given direction. The magic energies coursed through him and out, but it was too late. A calamitous explosion resounded next to Gethus and the power bled through his arm, literally tearing his flesh apart and throwing him unconscious from his horse to land in a crumpled heap. Meanwhile, Kholer approached the tower and with his infamous strength and the aid of his fellow Blood Fists, they hammered against the stone walls with such fervor that the walls began to buckle. Inside, Xiomar called out for his remaining soldiers to brace themselves. With a shuddering groan, the building collapsed in on itself, the unfortunate garrison within was thrown about as they attempted to flee the destroyed wreckage. Several elves were pinned by falling debris, but miraculously the majority of the squad escaped with nothing more than cosmetic dents in their armor. Looking out over the destroyed city as the flames reached higher into the now darkened skies, Xiomar, as the last of the commanders on the field for the elves, ordered a swift retreat. Caught up in his frenzy, Kholer was more focused on the complete and utter destruction of the town, and so did not strive to stop the elves as they fled from the battle, hoping that they had bought enough time for the refugees to make it back to the main army and Nicodemus’s promised safety. Upon hearing the trumpet sound for retreat, Archaiadynami, still holding the limp form of his master, spread his giant wings and lifted into the night sky.


As the fires died down and the red sun rose on the carnage that had been visited upon the town, a lone figure picked through the fallen stones of the tower. A faint voice moaned from beneath some rubble. The figure walked to its source and with a casual strength that belied the weight of the wreckage that he tossed aside, lifted the rocks that covered the voice. Beneath the detritus was an aged elf, his mage robes torn and his skin lightly scorched. He was wounded, but alive. Aantar stared down and smiled at his fortune. Knowing his patron god, this had all been part of his plan. The warlord turned and issued orders to a few of his warriors to have them haul the wizard to his tent and see to his wounds. Hopefully this elf would provide some answers about his army’s movements, at the very least he would provide some entertainment.

This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 2015/08/13 16:12:31


   
Made in us
Crazy Marauder Horseman







Chapter 4: Burnt Bridges


Grimme looked out as he watched the last few ratmen running from the field, their failing steps not serving to carry them very far through the hidden marshes that had proven their downfall in the previous battle. For a moment Grimme had been somewhat worried when in the opening minutes of the battle a gout of green lightning had speared out from the Skaven ranks and connected with the dwarven gyrocopter overhead and lit the afternoon sky in a green explosion that had deafened anyone in the vicinity. Grimme had then watched as the dwarves brought their firepower to bear as the Skaven attempted to charge across towards their battle line. The stinking marshes that Grimme had been cursing only hours previously had become their salvation, for as the ratmen had attempted to charge across the battlefield, they found themselves falling into hidden mires and bogs that were invisible to the naked eye until one crashed into them. The dwarves used this to their advantage as their gunline thundered, sending shrapnel across the field and cutting down the ratmen where they stood floundering in the marshes. After close to an hour of this, the Skaven had fled without even having made it to the firm ground where the dwarves awaited them with naked steel.


A sudden shadow darkened the skies overhead, causing Grimme to look up and see a trio of pegasus knights descending in heaving gusts of wind as their wings beat against the late autumn air and disturbing the fallen foliage around him.


“My Lord Grimme!” The leader of the pegasus knights acknowledged the grizzled veteran as he dismounted from his steed. “Lord Nicodemus sends his greetings and orders for you should you prove victorious and in a position to do so”


“Yes, wot do our Lawd command?” Grimme replied, his commoner’s rough words causing the knight he was addressing to cringe.


“He is safeguarding a train of refugees from the mountains back here to Mousillon, however, the Chaos horde is close behind them and he makes for the most direct route to the safety of city walls. He made mention of that path taking him through the heart of Bastonne and eventually leading him to Maurice’s Crossing.” The knight emphasized the name of the bridge as he knew that Grimme would understand his meaning. Rightly so, Grimme knew of Maurice’s Crossing, it was a brick bridge that spanned the waters of the river Grismerie and was the only crossing large enough to accommodate the amount of troops and refugees that Nicodemus would undoubtedly be trying to get across the river within a hundred miles.


“I tek it dat you scotted the bridge befohr yous be comen herr?”


“Yes, my Lord, the bridge is currently held by the skaven, probably from the same clan that you just fought off. Thankfully, that seems to be the only body of the ratmen between us and our quarry. Nicodemus’ orders are that we secure that bridge” The pegasus stamped impatiently behind the knight as he spoke, as if to punctuate the urgency of the order.Grimme nodded and walked over to where the dwarven lord to tell him of the new orders. As he approached he noticed that the foreman of the miners was speaking in hushed tones.


“I think we may ‘ave something important ter show ya” the dwarf grumbled as Grimme came within earshot.


“It may hafta wet fer awhile,” Grimme responded “Nic’odemus be needin’ us to clear a path fer ‘is return.”


“I dinnae think ya unnerstan’ wot I mean, manling, is possible that we ha’ found tha sword, or a’least the general area wer it mi’be found”


“So, mebbe ya knows werr da blade is, and mebbe ya don’t, is tha’ what you be tellin’ me?”


“Our waystone ha’ found the area that we need ta search! The sword cannae be far away fra’ there.” The dwarf grumbled a low thunderous noise as he stared down the grizzled old man in front of him.


“I can no leave ma master with no help, those survivors will no make it if we do no help dem clear dis bridge. But, mebbe I see yor point too, dwarf, where be da blade?”


“It’s in one of those grea’ undead citites this area is fam’us fer. We’re sure o’it, the great monster o’a crypt town tha’ only be aboot twenty miles nor’west o’ here. Makes sense, seein’ as how ‘twas a necromancer what did hide the bloody thing.” The dwarf’s stoic face showed no trace of emotion, but his voice did have a hint of exasperation that was steadily growing.


Grimme called over to the pegasus knight who had brought his lord’s orders. “How many of dem ratmen did you see on yor way here?”


“There were several hordes, my lord, I did not take an accurate count as I was told to get Lord Nicodemus’ orders to you as quickly as possible.” Grimme stood weighing the risks and possibilities in his mind. After a few minutes Grimme walked back over to the dwarven lord.


“Send a group of yor miners ta find da blade, take da Lady Lucas wid ye as she mebbe will sense de magic and get ye der faster. Da rest of us will march ta Maurice’s Crossin’ and take da bridge for Nicodemus. Tek one of yer flyin’ maquinations in case ya need to contact us.”


* * * * *

Prince Daggon felt warmth on his face and slowly opened his eyes. The sun shone down brightly into his eyes, causing an intensely sharp pain that made his head throb. Closing his eyes again, Daggon raised his hand to feel his head. A large bandage was wrapped around the top of his skull, his long hair was matted to his head with dried blood that had been hastily cleaned to fit the battle dressing that now adorned not only his head, but his side and chest had also been hastily bound up. Finally getting up the gumption to open his eyes, Daggon looked around. He was lying in a litter being pulled by a horse, Xiomar was riding close by and noticed that he was awake, calling out to the healers to come and examine him. While a runner went off to fetch them, Xiomar drew closer to his brother.


‘You gave us a bit of a scare, brother, it is a good thing that your dragon brought you back to us. I saw you fall and feared the worst, but the healers say you’ll make a full recovery, provided you rest up a bit before any further adventures.” Xiomar smiled reassuringly at his older brother.


Suddenly it all came crashing back to Daggon, the battle, his fall, and… “Alred?! Where is he?” Xiomar’s face told a story as warring emotions struggled across his suddenly furrowed brows.

“Alred didn’t make it, I watched what happened, and even I can’t describe it, one moment he was there casting spells and the next there was a bright flash, and then he was gone! I don’t know what happened to him.” Daggon lowered his eyes and winced in sudden pain that was not exclusively physical.

“The damn fool, what did he have to go and do a thing like that for?” he whispered to himself.

A sudden flurry of activity brought both elves’ attention to a horse galloping madly by the train of soldiers and refugees, cutting the sorrowful conversation short. The rider stopped by Nicodemus who was not far away from the litter where Daggon lay and began speaking, using wild gestures to punctuate his points and his eyes had a mad, worried light to them. Nicodemus’ face grew pale and grim, his mouth stretched into a deep frown as the words from his scout sank in. When the scout finished his report, Nicodemus nodded and gave a few quick orders that sent the soldier galloping back the way he had come at the same breakneck pace. Nicodemus noticed the elven princes watching him and moved his horse over to them. Dismounting, the Bretonnian lord came in close so as to not be overheard.


“It seems as though up ahead there is a ravine that we must cross, with the amount of wagons that we have and injured people, we cannot afford to find another crossing before the Chaos hosts are upon us.” The worried light in Nicodemus’ eyes urged the brothers to ask for more details. “The problem is that it seems as though there is already an enemy army approaching the bridge from the opposite side, they must have doubled around the forest fire they set. It would make sense, this is the quickest road out of the mountains, they would have known we would come this way, blast me for a fool!”


“So what are we going to do?” Xiomar asked.


“I am taking my knights in an attempt to take the bridge and push the Chaos forces back long enough for us to cross the bridge and continue our flight to Mousillon, if we are unsuccessful in doing so, then we will have to risk abandoning the carts and travelling down the mountain on a less safe path, one that we will be fighting off the Chaos horde our every step, and we will see many deaths come of this.” Nicodemus’ worried eyes scanned the faces of his elven allies.


“We will accompany you in this endeavor,” Prince Daggon said as he pushed himself up on his litter, the world spun a little bit around him but he managed to stay upright.


“Not you, Prince, your wounds must heal before you are able to fight again, and not your brother, either, he needs to stay with you.”


“Let us be the judge of who will fight with you.” Daggon pushed himself up and out of the litter, managing not to stagger as his feet made contact with the dirt.


“Indeed, Sir Nicodemus, it seems you find yourself in quite the predicament!” A new voice sounded from behind him as Prince Lianthur approached the whispering trio.


“Prince Lianthur, I’m glad you’ve joined us, have you been appraised of our situation?” Nicodemus managed to hide his grimace as he turned to face the new arrival.


“Unfortunately, yes I have been informed of your terrible management during these past several days. How do you propose rectifying the situation?” The elven prince sniffed as he brought himself close to his new prey. Nicodemus bit back a scathing reply to the effect of using him as a bargaining chip, or something to that effect.


“I have already sent orders that my men be gathered and we plan on marching ahead of the column to clear a path for our survivors to make it across, after that I’ll deal with the next tragedy when it becomes necessary.” Nicodemus’ sharp tone crackled with threats of impending violence.


“Tragedy indeed!” Lianthur smiled a humorless smile, his mocking sneer echoed in his eyes “and with your paltry forces we should expect to find your corpses and a laughing enemy host waiting for us at the bridge?”


“I’m open to any suggestions you may have, Prince Lianthur” Nicodemus’ voice grated, his words dripping with venom. Daggon quickly stepped in to intercept the conflict between the two nobles.


“Take some of our forces with you, Lord Nicodemus, we will fight alongside of you.” Nicodemus turned and gave a curt nod to the elven general before turning and walked back to his horse. “Fetch my horse for me” Daggon ordered his brother. Xiomar moved as if to protest but Daggon shot him a glance that stopped him in his tracks. “I will accompany him to the battlefield at the very least, and see what doom awaits our troops.”


“Yes, you do that,” Lianthur’s voice smacked of insincerity “but the next time you see fit to interfere in a conversation of state like was just happening, think better of it, young princeling. I will remember your insubordinate nature when we return home to Ulthuan”


* * * * *

A horrific sight greeted the combined armies of elves and Bretonnians as they approached the ravine. A great horde lay sprawled out before them on the opposite side of a gaping chasm spanned by a lonesome bridge. The loathsome host was prepared to charge the already exhausted column of elven warriors yet something held them back as they glowered in anticipation of the coming killings and skulls they would claim for their dark gods. However, the truly horrific sight was to be seen at the center of the ravenous host. A figure in black armour held aloft a glowing sword with runes that hurt the eyes and offended reality itself, a deep blue cloak trailed down his back and left a long train after him. Another armored figure stood nearby and held a long pole steady. Lashed to this pole was a bloodied figure, crimson stains corrupting the pure white of his robes and vivid purples announced the presence of terrible bruises covering any and all naked flesh. His hair was matted to his skull and it looked as though the points of his ears had been cut off and hung from his lobes like macabre earrings. Daggon draw a sharp breath as he recognized the broken figure.


“Alred!” he whispered. The figure with the blue cloak strode forward and called out in a rich, baritone voice:


“Your friend is very much alive, I assure you.” Aantar’s voice did not even seem muffled below his horned helmet’s facemask. “I am not so rough on my toys as to kill him so quickly, especially one who has proven so useful. Elven archers nocked arrows and took aim at the warlord, still some hundred yards away. “I realize that your archers could kill me from here, and I welcome the opportunity to see if they will! Come! Let me see if Tzeentch is through with me on this mortal plain!” Aantar spread his arms out wide in invitation.

“Of course, if you kill me now you’ll never get your friend back, and you know this, don’t you?” Aantar paused here for a theatrical chuckle “I propose a bit of sport to make this encounter more entertaining: If you can take the field, you can have your wizened wizard back, I promise not to kill him if it looks like you may win. However, if you fail to push us from the field, not only are you going to have a hard time keeping your people safe as you scuttle down this mountain, but I figure hauling such a frail old figure such as this would only slow you even further, so I will do the merciful thing and release him to a quick death, as befits my mercy. Do you accept my wager?!” Aantar paused here for a moment to await a response, when none came he turned and began walking “I take your silence as acquiescence to my offer, take a moment to organize your battleline, and we shall do the same.”

   
Made in us
Crazy Marauder Horseman







Chapter 5: The Flight to Mousillon


Nicodemus’s mind reeled as he rode along the mountain trail. Up ahead the path began to level off as the ragged train of refugees finally began to reach the plains and leave the accursed mountains behind them. Nicodemus pored over the events of the previous days, still trying to puzzle out his emotions of watching his former friend fall. He had watched as the Loremaster from Hoeth and his band of swordmasters had held the bridge over the chasm in the mountains, two full regiments of chaos warriors had crashed against their blades and fallen under the onslaught of those deadly edges, despite heavy losses to the elven regiment. Finally Aantar himself had committed to the fray, riding his manticore up onto the bridge he had squared off against the dreaded blade masters. At first he had held his own alongside the cursed monstrosity that fought alongside him, but with a sudden burst of energy, the Saphery guard surged forward and overwhelmed the beast, slaying it suddenly and dropping the Chaos Lord to the ground. As Aantar pushed himself to his knees, Aire the Loremaster plunged his sword to the hilt into the warlord’s chest. That moment froze time for Nicodemus as he stood waiting to reinforce the bridge with his retinue of Grail Knights. Aantar grabbed the loremaster’s arms and pulled himself to his feet, Aire pressed harder against the blade in his hands, pushing them both back against the railing of the bridge. Two other swordmasters rushed in and with quick thrusts pierced Aantar through his stomach and shoulder. Aantar reached up and pulled Aire’s head close to his own so that their foreheads were touching. The swordmasters continued to hack at the Chaos Lord, cleaving first one arm from him, then a leg from below the knee. At this last blow, Aantar released the Loremaster and fell backwards over the railing and into the bottomless chasm below.

With the death of their general, the remaining warriors fled from the battlefield, and the blood-slicked bridge was won. In their hurry they even left the hostage Alred behind, though badly beaten and bruised, with several broken bones. It would be some time before the aged wizard would be able to return to full service. On top of that, it seems that nature itself had been fighting against the elven host as several eagles had simply fallen from the sky dead, and a bolt thrower crew had likewise simply fallen over like puppets who’d had their strings cut by some invisible force. Aktar the anointed was struck down in the fight against the chaos warriors on the bridge, onlookers had sworn that he appeared to be dragged down by some dark power as the blades of the northmen claimed him. The mage Lynn had also felt some insidious force in the winds. She had been about to remark on it, but even as she opened her mouth to comment,all that emitted from her mouth was a terrible scream as she began to violently shake. She began clutching at her right hand and digging her nails into her wrist. Long rivulets of blood had run down her arm. A sudden burst of force sent her flying through the air, and when she landed she lay as if dead. Of these two Aktar had awoken first, several hours after the battle had ended, but he was different, while no elf could be described as jovial, Aktar seemed to be even darker and more brooding than he had been before. Lynn had awoken sobbing from her unconsciousness, her usual calm demeanor broken and her emotions laid bare and raw before those around her. She seemed to be coping better with the incident than Aktar, who seemed to blame himself for what had transpired. Lynn’s hand was a ruined mass of pulped and cut flesh from her own nails and the fall, and the physicians had concluded that it would never return to its proper use. The oddest thing about it all was how concerned the pompous Prince Lianthur had acted towards the two injured elves, coming in repeatedly while they slept and checking on them regularly since they had awoken. Lianthur did not strike Nicodemus as someone who cared that deeply for his troops but rather saw them as pieces on a game board, but perhaps he had misjudged the prince.

After the battle had been won, Nicodemus had been in the process of leading his troops across the ravine to the other side to establish a beach head to ensure the safety of the refugees as they came across when Aire had approached him.

“You knew that Chaos worshipper I slew today, did you not?” The elf’s voice lilted in a sing-song rhythm.

“I did at one time, though he was not the being that you slew today when I knew him” Nicodemus’s eyes fell as he thought of his fallen friend.

“Even so, you may be able to help me with something that has troubled me.”

“If I can, I will, tell me what is bothering you” Nicodemus dismounted from his horse and stood before Aire so that he could look at him in the eyes levelly.

“At one point I thought that I had met my end while fighting this Aantar, I think you know what I speak of. When he reached up and pulled my head down to his, I felt for sure that he was going to kill me, even though he already had several blades embedded in his skin. But he didn’t do anything, when he brought my head close all he did was whisper two words before releasing me and falling to his death.” At this the elf paused and looked back over at the bridge where the event had taken place, his eyes were pensive and seemed to be searching for something. “It is the words that he chose to be his last that I don’t understand, he simply said ‘thank you’. As his former friend, you would know better than most what he meant by that.” Aire had turned to look at Nicodemus at this point. The wizened man’s eyes had softened and he seemed to be having difficulty speaking. Long forgotten memories echoed in his ears, and he closed his eyes a moment to remember things he’d long since buried.


“Why is it that you southerners hate my kind so much?” Aantar was lying up against a fallen tree with Kalia’s head in his lap. The day had been a good one: they had routed the Skaven from the southern border and slain the evil Grey Seer who had been the leader of that motley pack. The hope was that the will had been broken and that the enemy had fled for good. They had been wrong of course, but at that moment no one could think that an assassin was creeping his way into their camp, or that the chieftain was the real leader of the Skaven army. No one could have suspected that Kalia was hours away from receiving that fatal blow. At that moment, the world was right and Nicodemus sat across the fire from his friend.

“I suppose it’s because your kind tend to attack us so often. Your northern tribes have killed more people than any sickness, disease, or lack of food has ever done. You’re barbarians.” Nicodemus smiled at this, and watched a mirrored expression creep over his friend’s face.

“Yet you still fight alongside us. Why?” Aantar chuckled.

“Because you aren’t like the rest of your northern brethren, you kill for sport, yes, but you don’t kill innocents, and you won’t fight an unarmed man, or even an orc! I still remember last season when you picked up that ugly creature’s axe and handed it back to him in order to continue the fight, even while a battle was raging all around you, you calmly stooped down and picked up the brute’s weapon and one could even say you politely handed it back to him. For all the luck it did him, though, you killed him seconds later all the same. But it is that integrity that allows my honor and conscience to stay their protests while I stand next to you in a battle.” Nicodemus shook his head at the memory, smiling. “I don’t understand how you can do those while serving your gods, don’t they frown on things like that? Doesn’t your war god cry out for ever more skulls, even those of the innocent? You have healers even though your disease god clamours for the preservation of all sickness, and you are a monogamous tribe, even though your deity of excess cries out for ever more feats of carnal lust, how do you still find favor in their eyes?”

“You do not understand my gods. You see Khorne and cry out warmonger, but it is not so. It is he who blesses us with courage in battle and skill with our blades, and in return we submit to him the skulls of our fallen foes, no one has ever been exalted for offering up a child’s skull, what use would he have for such a worthless trinket?” Aantar shifted slightly, causing Kalia to stir. “You call Grandfather Nurgle the God of Disease, and so he is, but he is also the god of life! His palace resides within a garden that is teeming with life and growth, just because he revels in the smallest of living things such as disease and insects that spread it does not mean he does not also cherish the lives of a newborn child, it is through him that our physicians can heal at all. In your eyes Slaanesh is the God of Excess, but to us he is the God of Passion without limits, he is the purveyor of love, and brings lives together. He is the God of Revelry, for without enjoyment what purpose is there in life?” Aantar smiled at his friend through the flames.

“You forgot one,” Nicodemus said “, what about Tzeentch? You haven’t enlightened me in regards to him.”

“Ah, Tzeentch is the Lord of Change, and not every change is an evil. Think of the changing seasons, all of which are necessary in their own right, winter must give way to spring and summer because of Tzeentch. A boy must change into a man, and a woman into a mother. Are these not good things? Are not these blessings?” Aantar sighed and laid his head back on the log that he was propped against.

“You paint these devils in a beautiful light,” Nicodemus replied “,but I know the terror and destruction they’ve wrought on my brothers, my own brother was killed by one of your ‘chosen’ warriors, a blessed one of Khorne by your description.”

“Death is also a change, and sometimes it is a blessing, my friend.” Aantar responded without opening his eyes “Perhaps he was being saved from some crueller fate, or perhaps his devotion to your gods was not as strong as the ‘chosen’ one’s was to his. In the end I can say this only, I am a devoted one to these beings and you call me friend, that must say something about those Chaos gods you hate so much.” Nicodemus was silent a long moment after this.

“You have given me much to think about, my friend. For tonight I must go pray to my Goddess, and then I must retire. We will continue this conversation at a later time, I think.”



The memory faded, only to be replaced with another image, some months following the previous memory. Nicodemus’s hand was impaled to a tree, the dagger that pierced his palm mingled his blood with that of Kalia’s still wet on the blade. Aantar stood over him, his newly scarred face looking down at him with a pained expression. Tears ran down the bloody rivulets in Aantar’s marred visage, turning crimson as they fell from his eyes and ran down the length of his cheeks. There was no victory in his eyes, only sorrow.


“Please, please stop me, my friend…” Aantar pleaded, he stared at his friend in agony for a few moments more, then turned and gave the order to cease fighting and move out. Leaving the dead and wounded, his soldiers marched out over the frozen dunes. That was the real memory, not one twisted by nightmares and guilt. That had been the last time Nicodemus ever saw his friend’s face.


All of these memories passed within the space of a thought behind Nicodemus’s eyes as he listened to Aire’s news of Aantar’s final words. It seems as though you were wrong about your gods, my friend, maybe you only worshipped an image of them that you liked, or maybe that aspect of them is simply overshadowed by their desire to destroy and hurt.

“I think he was thanking you for releasing him.” Nicodemus spoke in a husky tone. Aire simply looked at the Bretonnian Lord with a slightly puzzled look for a few moments before nodding and then turning to walk off pausing only to look again at the spot on the bridge where Aantar fell, Nicodemus’s gaze followed that of the elf’s and lingered on the bridge’s bloodied flagstones. I’m glad you’re free, my friend. Nicodemus brushed his face gruffly and again began issuing orders to establish a safe route for the refugees.


That had been six days ago. In the intervening hours Nicodemus had reflected time and again upon the experience and his spirits had not lightened in that time. Even news that the horde that had been following them since Soude was broken and scattered with the loss of their leader had not lifted Nicodemus’s dark mood. The old knight didn’t even notice when Daggon appeared beside him, riding atop a white mare.

“I did not think you humans were capable of such complex emotion,” the elven prince’s voice carried a sympathetic tone “yet here I see you mourning the loss of an enemy, you seem profoundly upset by our victory yesterday.”

“Aantar was my friend, and he was not always the monster that was thrown from the bridge that day. I don’t understand my emotions, either, I should be jubilant over the relief your Loremaster won for us. But I can’t help but miss my old brother-in-arms. Did you know that Aantar saved my life more times than I can count?” Nicodemus gave a crooked smile and shook his head slowly. “Before his fall to Chaos, even though it was an impossible hope, I still felt that there would be some way to bring him back, to stop him from his rampage. But word kept reaching me of the carnage he wrought on the Empire, the cities he burnt to the ground, all the death that followed him like flies on a corpse, yet even so I did not give up on that hope.” Daggon listened to Nicodemus’s words and nodded his head. “Yet now he’s gone, and with it even that feeble hope I held that he would find redemption.”

“I think I understand what you mean,” Daggon replied after Nicodemus paused as if searching for the words to continue. “We elves are long lived, and I forget how short your days are among your kind, but many centuries ago, there was a sundering among our race, brother fought brother and families were shattered in the flames of a bitter war. My family was among those that were torn in two, part of my ancestors stayed true to Ulthuan and the Phoenix King, and some of them left with the vile Malekith the Usurper. I have fought against the descendants of those ancestors, and I know that my blade has tasted the blood of my kin. You humans have large families and many relatives. We elves have few and treasure what familial relations we do have. I have wept many nights mourning those cousins whom I have been forced to cut down. Despite their sins, they were still my family. There are some among my people who would call me a fool for feeling thusly, but I feel as though my spirit would be cheapened if I did not regret the killing of my relatives.” Daggon sighed heavily and stared out across the afternoon sky. Nicodemus tracked his gaze and the two riders were silent for a time as old ghosts swirled about them in a mist of regret and shared sorrow.

Their reverie was interrupted by the arrival of Prince Lianthur, who came thundering up on his stallion and grinding to a halt within feet of Nicodemus and Daggon. In the new arrival’s wake came his bodyguard of swordmasters, clad in the green of Lianthur’s house rather than the blue of Saphery. Prince Lianthur turned a fierce gaze on Nicodemus before he spoke, an impatient look on his face.

“Prince Daggon, I require a contingent of troops to come with me immediately, do not send any of your lieutenants, as I fear you will be needing them soon. I need only soldiers, I will lead them myself.” Lianthur’s tone brooked no disagreement and Daggon chafed under the oppressive servitude he was forced to endure under Lianthur’s command.

“Where are you taking them?” Nicodemus asked, his voice thin and his eyes narrowed.

“That is none of your concern, human, this is an elven matter” Lianthur sneered.

“So long as you are in my homeland, where your troops go is of concern to me, very much so, actually” Nicodemus retorted.

“I will not be beholden to you or your kind, do you not need our aid to save your “homeland?” Lainthur blithely curled his sneer into a condescending smile. Nicodemus pursed his lips and withdrew slightly, for the elf had a point, the troops he provided were essential to the salvation of this area and vital to repelling the Chaos invaders. However, there was something that was off about the prince’s request, Daggon felt it too and decided to press the point.

“Prince Lianthur, he is our host in these foreign lands, we should be respectful to his requests so far as dignity permits. He has asked no unreasonable questions nor made any rude accusations.” Daggon struggled to keep a respectful tone in his voice, but if he had offended either of the two, they showed no signs.

“You take the human’s side over your own kind? I wonder about you at times, Daggon, if you are perhaps not too lax in your judgments. However, if you must know, a dwarven flying contraption just set down a few minutes ago and delivered a message that the blade has been found and I go to secure it with whatever forces you will be sending, human. Prince Daggon and the remainder of his troops will remain behind to help your pitiful refugees as the dwarf also mentioned that there was a fairly large army of rat-men in between you and your walled city of Mousillon, and you have a longer route to that city than you may have thought before as the bridge you had planned to use has been demolished by the Skaven, thus you will have need of whatever troops you can spare.” Lianthur’s face seemed almost jovial as he told of the dwarf’s report. Nicodemus’s jaw clenched and his eyes grew grim. Looking back at the refugees and his knights, the old knight realized that Lianthur had spoken true. If there was a skaven army in between them and Mousillon, they would need to fight their way through and clear a path for the refugees. But securing the Fellblade copy was also vital. Nicodemus signalled a nearby yeomen, who came running over to his liege’s side.

“Go and find Sir Thomas, tell him to gather his men-at-arms and a handful of his best knights and bring them before me.” Nicodemus’s instructions were quick and simple, best for the peasant to be able to remember them. The yeomen nodded and then ran off to find Sir Thomas’s colors and give him his lord’s orders. Turning to Lianthur again, Nicodemus spoke.

“Sir Thomas will go with you along with a few troops, they are the ones who will carry the Fellblade. You will go and meet up with the dwarven forces that are there and help secure the artifact.” As Nicodemus spoke, the light around him seemed to glow brighter and a halo of color seemed to circulate around his head, as if he stood in the spray of a magnificent waterfall and the light caught the spray creating a regal prismatic display in the golden light of an autumnal evening. Despite being several centuries younger than Lianthur, the manner in which Nicodemus now spoke and his bearing cowed even that of the pompous prince and all protests died on his tongue before he even dared speak. Glaring away, Lianthur nodded and turned to Daggon again.

“Order these troops to come with me, I have prepared the conscriptions necessary for the journey, you will order them ready for me and have them prepared to march within the hour, I will also be taking my own guard with me, as well.” Lainthur fumed at Daggon, who could not help the slightest twitch of a smile betray itself upon his face, Lianthur barely contained a sneer as he practically threw the conscription notices at his subordinate Prince and turned to ride off.

“I do not wish to press you any harder than you have already been, my friend.” Nicodemus said, turning to Daggon. “But most of my knights are exhausted from the march and the previous battle, I can offer myself and my retinue at your disposal, for we are willing and able to do so, even though we be tired. However, we must clear the path ahead for my people, can your remaining forces handle the battle ahead?” Daggon was already scanning the transcript notices, a puzzled look passed briefly over his features.

“I believe so,” Daggon looked up at Nicodemus “, I will gather my troops and send them ahead with orders to clear the way ahead for us.”

“Thank you, let me know if you would take any of my men with you” Nicodemus gave a tired smile and nodded. Daggon returned the nod and turned his horse to move off and begin making arrangements.

* * * * *

The cursed Malachai looked down from the barrow hill where he stood looking down at the swamp-filled necropolis below him. He leaned his head back and smelled the fetid air, he could feel the Fellblade artifact was close by, its power pulsed upon the rotten winds of magic which reeked of death in this dark place. The mad whisperings in his mind railed against the mental cage that Malachai had penned them in with, he only allowed a select few to influence him now.

The Lady’s whore is close, now, a sultry voice whispered from a grimier portion of Malachai’s mind. He smiled, the Bretonnian damsel that had accompanied the dwarven forces had been their downfall. Weeks ago Malachai had felt the tuggings of the Grand Architect on the edges of his frayed reality, pulling him westward and away from the main body of the invasion force. Malachai hadn’t cared, Aantar had always given him license to do as he pleased, so long as he visited destruction wherever he went. Taking a small force with him, he had followed an ongoing course west. His master’s pull had led him to this rotting marshland and it was then that Malachai finally began to understand some glimmer of his will. As they had drawn closer to the graveyard cities of Mousillon the follower of Tzeentch had begun to sense the presence of an artifact of great power, as he drew even closer Malachai sensed a wizard or some other form of magic user weaving divination spells, probably trying to pinpoint the location of the item itself. It had been a simple matter of following the whispers in his mind and the pulsing throb of the winds of magic towards the wizard who wielded them in an attempt to find the artifact. When Malachai saw dwarves at first, he had been confused as their race was completely inept in the subtle art of wizardry. But then he had seen the Brettonian maid, lush and pale and beautiful, the aura of the Lady surrounding her like a golden halo. It made Malachai nauseous just thinking of it. The simple cantrips that the damsel were using were crude but effective and so Malachai had allowed the woman to do his work for him, and she was approaching the site of the blade now, the hoarse coughing voice confirmed this from the part of Malachai’s mind that stored his old memories of his time among the College of Light. The wait was nearly over, for as soon as she pinpointed the location of the blade, Malachai’s troops would fall upon her and her dwarven allies in one crushing blow. Then they would take the blade back to Archaon, as his Master demanded, and the slaughter would begin anew as the Everchosen burned across the old world. Malachai signalled for his troops to be ready, the wait was nearly over.

* * * * *

The Lady Lucas was concentrating so hard that she almost missed it. Her divinations, combined with the dwarven lodestone, had been giving her the strong impression that the blade was somewhere within this immediate vicinity, but she could not lay down a specific spot. That is until she stepped back and relaxed her focus. Then, as if a veil were parting before her eyes, the spell seemed to unravel within her and loose itself onto the world. Tendrils of light curled out and away from her, and she followed them as the ghostly tendrils led her on to the base of a black mausoleum of some long dead noble. To the casual eye, it seemed as though there was no way to enter the crypt, as the door was decorative in nature, and the tomb was constructed of solid brick. But the golden tendrils led Lucas to the side of the black edifice. There, hidden to the naked eye, it became apparent that someone had magically altered part of the wall. Lucas waded through hip-deep muck and marsh to get to the small doorway. She called out to the miners that were with her and pointed out the hidden door. A quick inspection from the old dwarf confirmed what the magic had shown her and the dwarves began the work of excavating the entrance so the rest of their force could go inside to secure the artifact, it was inside this building, of that she was sure.

As the dwarfs finally caved in the entrance, some mystical sense within Lucas screamed a warning. Turning to look up the hill that hovered over the stinking marsh and was the only real landmark in the surrounding area, she saw a lone figure at the top of the low rise standing with a staff upraised. The winds of magic curled around him like a maelstrom and at that moment Lucas tasted the metallic tang of fear on her tongue, something she had forgotten for many years since her time in her quest for the grail.

“Master dwarf! Rally your troops! We are under attack!” Lucas screamed at the dwarven commander and his troops standing in preparation to enter the mausoleum. Behind her the hillside filled with a bloodthirsty horde that had been forced to abstain from slaughter for far too long.

This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 2015/08/20 14:29:33


   
Made in us
Crazy Marauder Horseman







Chapter 6: Blood Among the Gravestones

Malachai cackled as he strode down the hill behind the swelling mass of his troops that were already making contact with the dwarven lines. The crazed sorcerer felt the stirrings of an opposing mage trying to grasp at the Winds of Magic. Ah yes! The Lady’s whore! Malachai grinned and felt out through the swirling magics in the air and pinpointed his target. The little curr had joined up with a small unit of her archers to use as a shield against foreign magics. At the present she was attempting to channel some form of cantrip to bolster her troops’ resolve. Malachai pointed his hand into the sky and chanted some minor blasphemies along with a few words of evocation and hurled a counter curse at the damsel. Across the marshes Lucas screamed as her spell unravelled before her eyes and a vision of terror sprang from the sparks of her sputtering incantation. A smiling face formed before her eyes, one with pointed horns sprouting from its face and horrible, sharp teeth stretching a leather-skinned face into a gruesome smirk. The face lunged at her, causing her to lose her concentration.

Malachai’s laughter was easily heard even above the booming cacophony that was the battle going on in the center of the dwarf line. Great loping monstrosities of metal carrying red-plate warriors bounded towards a unit of aged longbeards who muttered under their breath and eyed the clansmen to either side in a threatening manner with promises of violence should they not hold their ground. The other dwarves grumbled under the unnecessary scrutiny. With a mighty clash the juggernauts hit the shields of the aged dwarves moments before a unit of marauder horsemen crashed into the other dwarven lines. Behind them ranks of the vast Bloody Knuckle clans made their way towards the fight as well.

The longbeards held their own under the violent onslaught, even after the axes of the crazed warriors and the jaws of their monstrous steeds bit through the thick shields of the front rank. Three dwarves fell to cursed northman axes in the opening moments, a fourth’s head disappeared behind the razor teeth of one of the metal creature’s mouth. The monster reared back and shook its head violently as the dwarf’s body dislodged without its head and flew back into the ranks of its former comrades, spraying them with red fluid and chunks of torn flesh. Wiping the gore from their eyes, the seasoned veterans surged back at their foes, their heavy hammers leaving deep dents in the hides of the metal beasts and the towering shields of the bloody knights. Yet the dwarves were unable to bring down any of the red riders and so braced themselves for further violence as the fighting continued unabated and more dwarven blood flowed into the marshes at their feet.

To the other side, the marauding horsemen crashed into a group of clansmen and were far less successful in this endeavor than their red-plated companions. The rusted tips of the mounted barbarian lances thrust down and managed to pierce the maille plates of two of the younger dwarves and one of the crazed mounts managed to bite the hand off of one of the end beardlings who hadn’t been paying attention, he fell back stoically clutching his bloodied stump. Then the hardened warriors struck back against the psychotic riders, pulling four down from their steeds and beating them to a bloody pulp under the weight of ancient hammers and keen axes. The remaining six, upon seeing their comrades cut down in such a bloody fashion lost their nerve and turned to run. But such was the confusion of the battle and the treacherous muddy ground proved their undoing, most of the horses reared up in the midst of this bedlam and threw their riders to the ground where dwarven steel quickly dispatched them, in the end it was a bloody mess that left the clansmen panting but mostly unscathed while the marauders lay in bloody heaps upon the ground.

Lady Lucas stared out onto the battle from the vantage point she held on the hill with a group of her lord’s archers. They fired a few volleys into the coming tides of northmen but were ultimately ineffective as their range and skill were insufficient to bring down more than a few accidental kills. Lucas sighed and began weaving a spell that would help protect the dwarven ranks closest to her. It was at this time the Hellcannons spoke from the back of the advancing foe.

A nightmarish sound, like that of a wailing child mixed with the tortured screams of a person trapped in their burning home as the flames licked the flesh from their bones, echoed through the air as a large bundle of eldritch energy landed in the midst of the archers. Without even having time to register what had just happened a second ball of energy landed very close to where Lucas now stood, and this time the energies rolled over her and she caught her breath as the sharp, metallic tang of fear entered her mouth and her stomach rolled in terror. She closed her eyes in an effort to control the rising panic that threatened to overwhelm her and when she opened them she found herself staring up into the desiccated face of a corpse that looked down at her. The creature screamed and an improbable scorpion tale, complete with a vicious stinger, whipper around from behind it and pierced Lucas through the stomach. She screamed in pain. This can’t be happening! She thought to herself I slew this creature in the slave pits of Kasea! It is dead some twenty years now! With that thought the creature’s shape shuddered and exploded into a thousand bits, the pieces of its existence shattering like pieces of shrapnel from a cannon’s ordnance. Jagged pieces cut Lucas’s face and she lifted her hands that had been covering the stomach wound to her face in reflex. There was no blood on her hands and the stinging pain to her stomach was gone but Lucas was too caught up in the memory of that monster that had almost killed her in her memories to be aware of any of that.

Images cascaded through her memory of all the monsters, the abominations, and the horror they had visited on her in her dreams ever since she had left with Nicodemus on his pilgrimage all those years ago. Then the images rested on the vision of a dreaded paled-face vampire and she was forced to witness again and again as he ravaged her body, leaving claw marks across her face that had earned her the title “the Scarred.” Lucas screamed and clawed at her face as the memory replayed itself again and again. It is only a memory! She kept repeating to herself It cannot harm you. But the nightmare seemed unaffected by this logic and continued to rake at her imaginary corpse.

Behind the initial charge of cavalry came the steady advance of foot-borne soldier thirsting for blood to wet their axes, these now crashed against the implacable shield wall of dwarven resolution and stopped there, the regular order of the former battlelines devolving into a disorganized melee. Dwarven axes split northman skulls while great two handed spiked cudgels broke beardlings’ spines and shattered on gromril shields in equal measure. Whenever a Kurgan’s weapon broke they would quickly grab that of a fallen ally and rejoin the fray, failing that they would simply leap on the shorter forms before them and begin clawing and gouging at eye sockets or exposing throats to bite down on vulnerable jugulars. The stony children of Grungi stood their ground and wouldn’t give an inch, their weapons moving in mechanical motions that reaped a red harvest amongst the crude barbarians squabbling in the dirt around them.

The dwarven longbeards finally managed to haul one of the red plated skull crushers from his mount and with a defining sound of screeching metal they hacked the juggernaught to bits, even though it cost them several comrades in doing so as the remaining crimson knights continued the ongoing work of death among the dwarven ranks. Still the dwarves held their ground. Behind them the organ guns and great cannons they had brought up began to thunder as their deadly projectiles flew across the killing fields and took down several of the more regimented and better armored killers that even now were approaching the dwarven battle lines. The dwarven thunderers reaped a heavy toll upon these newcomers as well, their smaller thunderstorms spitting venomous lead at their targets. The crazed northmen did not even slow in their advance and took no notice of their fallen brethren. A unit of rangers advanced on this unit and opened fire with their crossbows, causing even more of the red soldiers to fall before charging into their side flank. The Chaos warriors hollered in unfettered glee to finally find themselves in a fight and took to slaughtering the rangers with a gusto. The dwarves fought back with great two handed axes and cleaved several of the warriors to the ground with such violence that it shocked them out of their frenzied rage and they began to fight far more carefully and precisely but no less deadly.

Malachai watched this with a sense of glee as death began to permeate the battlefield. A lone dwarven slayer with a crest as tall as he was spied the lone sorcerer and proceeded to charge the vile caster. Malachai looked at the oncoming dwarf with utter contempt and with a flick of his wrist watched as the slayers flesh burst into blue flames. The disgraced dwarf would not halt even at this and continued to charge ahead, axe raised to strike. Malachai sighed with impatience and fed magical energy into the flames, watching as the skin melted and sloughed off the bones of the charging dwarf. With a sudden burst of power, the flaming slayer exploded in a cloud of bone shards and burning flesh. Malachai tipped his head back and laughed at the sight. With the leftover energy he had gained from the massacre all around him, the evil sorcerer summoned a great pillar of rocks to coalesce beneath him, raising him up to gain a better vantage over the battlefield. As it rose the stones of the sorcerous tower became etched with blasphemous runes and inexplicable tongues of blue and yellow flames licked at the edge of the pedestal that crested the pillar of stones. Malachai looked out over the fighting and was not pleased with what he saw.

The dwarven rangers, in a surge of valiant effort, pushed through the lines of the armored warriors before them. The push was not without its cost. On the other side of the attack the dwarven rangers were left with only their commander and a scant half dozen others from the two score that had made up their numbers before hand, yet all the crazed, armored fanatics that they had faced now lay face down in the muck. Looking around the leader of the rangers cried out and pointed to Malachai atop his arcane fulcrum and the rest of the troop nodded their agreement, moving into formation as they ran towards their goal.

The dwarven longbeards finally brought low the last of the juggernaughts and with a squealing hiss of escaping steam the demonic creature shuddered and lay still. Looking to their right they witnessed the heavy slaughter amongst their younger clansmen and the crazed tribal berzerkers. Without pausing the longbeards shifted their focus and charged into the fray and with this new threat the fanatical zeal of the northmen faltered and they began to die in droves as panic and fear proceeded to seize them.

Arriving at the base of the spire, the leader of the dwarven rangers bellowed his challenge as steps inexplicably began to form that led up the summoned tower. Malachai smiled as he heard the dwarf’s curses as he scuttled his way up to meet him. The sorcerer slowly drew his sword and turned to meet his would-be assailant. The dwarf sneered as he crested the pedestal and stepped over the strange flames, his axe in one hand and a loaded crossbow in the other. Malachai’s crooked smirk broadened as he dodged the missile launched by the dwarf’s weapon and quickly closed the distance between them. The vile symbols on his armor glowed and the talisman around his neck pulsated as he traded blows with his duelist. The dwarf was strong, but slow and Malachai easily avoided the majority of his blows and those that did make it past his defense were quickly deflected by his armor or some trick of his amulet’s hidden power.

Lucas struggled to ward off the terror of the vision that overwhelmed her. Remember how this memory ends! Lucas howled desperately Remember what happened?! At last this thought found purchase and the memory shifted. In her mind’s eye she saw herself staring into the gaping maw of the vampire whose embrace was even now preparing to crush the life from her. Lucas tasted the blood from the wounds on her face and felt the feeble grasping attempts she made to thwart the vampire’s fatal kiss. At the last moment, Lucas reached down and grabbed the ornate dagger at her assailant’s waist and rammed it into his eye. The vampire screamed and released her as a cloud of smoke obscured his escape. With that fulfillment of the memory Lucas was released from its tormenting grasp. Sucking in a deep breath, she took a shaky step forward, she found herself alone on the hill overlooking the battle. A quick scan of the field revealed that the majority of the Chaos worshippers had been routed from the field and she released a sigh of relief. Then her eyes came to rest on the stone pylon jutting out of the muddy soil and the two figures fighting high above at its pinnacle.

Malachai giggled as the dwarf’s lunge carried him past without striking the sorcerer. In a sudden movement Malachai reached out with his sword and cleaved the dwarf’s hand that was grasping his axe from his wrist and with his other hand he grabbed his victim’s beard hauling upward savagely to expose a barrel sized throat underneath.

“I thank you for the dance, master dwarf, but it is time to bring this to an end.” With that Malachai plunged the tip of his sword into the ranger’s throat and laughed as the crimson bled out and dribbled upon the stone below them. With a vicious push, the sorcerer freed his blade and sent the corpse flying over the edge of the fulcrum. Malachai held his blade aloft and screeched laughter that echoed across the field. Rolling thunder reverberated through the sky and the air trembled with dark energies.

Lucas watched the body of the dwarf ranger topple from the summoned tower and crush into the dark mud below. Lucas held a hand over her mouth and stared at the murderous sorcerer as lightning began to strike his upheld blade. Yet the figure did not falter, in fact his laughter seemed to grow louder and louder, at the same time growing deeper and deeper. The frightened damsel watched as the sorcerer’s body began to change. He grew bigger and more muscular, even from across the battlefield Lucas could hear the bones cracking as they were reformed. A blinding curtain of lighting struck the pedestal and the concussive thrum of thunder drove Lucas to her knees. When the lightning cleared Lucas screamed at the grotesque creature that stood where the Chaos Sorcerer had stood previously. Her screaming echoed inside of her own skull and she could not bring herself to stop as the nightmares of her past again began their assault on her present. More and more monsters danced across her vision and she found herself gasping for breath even as she toppled into the mud as darkness claimed her and she was thrown into blessed oblivion.

This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 2015/08/24 14:12:12


   
Made in us
Crazy Marauder Horseman







Chapter 7: Treachery at the Necropolis

Lucas was vaguely aware of someone shaking her. The sensation felt distant, as did the sound of someone shouting her name. Like someone was yelling from another room and her senses were registering it as part of the ambiance. The horrors of the battle still played out across her mind as she watched time and time again as the Chaos sorcerer atop the conjured spire had thrown the torn and ruined body of the dwarf ranger from his perch and held his sword high to the heavens, chanting blasphemous praises to his dark gods. Flickering tongues of lightning had danced across the arcane fulcrum, enfolding the sorcerer in a blinding curtain that dispersed with a shattering roar of thunder. When the lightning dispersed, the Chaos sorcerer was gone and in his place stood a towering mound of muscle and leathery wings that extended out from the central mass. A grinning face with curling horns bellowed out an inhuman laughter across the battlefield. That had been the last thing Lucas remembered before descending back into the madness that the devils of her past had previously dragged her into. Her regiment of archers had long since fled when a hellish ordnance had landed among them, demonic whispers and tortured screams accompanying the blast as the archers who had been ignited by the shot had screamed their death throes, the magic of the weapon warping their screams into animal squeals and children’s cries. Lucas herself had slipped into and insensible stupor after that as memories of her time in the slave pits of Mordheim came crawling back from the dark corners of her mind. The cruel things that had been done to her that had tarnished her body and her very soul and had driven her insane long ago welled up inside her. The only thing that kept that fear at bay was the memory of the Lady, and that part of her that still clung to this existence cried out to her deity in desperation. This prayer brought with it a focus that allowed Lucas to claw her way back to reality and she had found herself curled up in a ball rocking back and forth on a hill overlooking the battlefield, her archers had long since fled in terror. It was from that perch that she watched the sorcerer’s transformation and the horrors he unleashed as he burned a dwarven dragonslayer to a cinder with flickering witchfire, his demonic laughter echoing across the landscape. Lucas had felt the dread overtake her and she descended willingly into fevered madness once again.

Slowly, Lucas pushed her way through the clawing memories back to the surface where she found herself staring into the heavily scarred face of a dwarf veteran. In her harried state the only detail that her brain truly felt equipped to register was that the dwarf’s beard was tickling her face. Lucas blinked several times in an attempt to get her eyes to focus.

“I see yer awake, then” a grizzled voice cut through the cloying din of Lucas’s thoughts.

“What happened?” She asked, reaching up to brush his beard from her face.

“Good news’s we won,” the scarred face retreated as Lucas sat up and put a hand out to steady herself.

“How is that possible? I saw the demon, I heard the thunder. I saw your soldiers dying” Lucas’s voice was rising in pitch as the memories of the battle threatened to overwhelm her again.

“Aye, tha’ demon was a tricky bit, but by that time, he’d red the writin’ on the wall, the majority o’ ‘is troops was broken and fled the battle. So the sorcerer turn’d tail and fled with ‘em. We killed near e’ry nor’man we could get our axes near, but it was a close call and a ‘ard fought win, my troops are pretty near exhausted a’ this point.” The dwarf stared unflinchingly at the woman before him as she rose unsteadily to her feet.

“The tomb! The blade!” Lucas gasped as memory beyond her nightmares came rushing back.

“The tomb was fill’d w’traps, but the miners cleared em’ oot and with only minimal losses on oor side. They are close ta finishin’ up now, they should be finishing up in the next couple o’ hours. If’n ya please, m’lady, ye can com’ an’ rest back a’ camp, we may be needin’ ya here very soon.” The dwarf held out his hand which Lucas took to steady herself and together they began moving back to the necropolis.

* * * * *

Warlord Grint was livid! How dare those haughty elf things chase his warriors from the field! How dare his lazy troops be brushed aside by such frail looking creatures with their disgustingly bright clothing and shining weapons! Several slaves had been placed before him to vent his wrath, their broken bodies lay strewn about his personal area that he had cordoned off as his own personal space. His lieutenants shrank back as far as they could from their general’s foul mood, each one trying to stay behind the others as Grint’s blade flashed about at him, his frustrations finding purchase in the bodies of the dead slaves.

“Those filthy elves must pay for what they have done!” Grint’s scratchy voice punctuated each syllable with a wet crunch from the current corpse he continued to mangle with his rusty blade. After one particularly hard blow, the blade wedged itself in between dead muscle and cracked bone and held fast. Grint’s eyes flashed in anger at the indignation and audacity of the slave to defy him even in death and took to pummelling the corpse with his fists. After several minutes of this the warlord rose, blood and gore tinging his fur a pinkish hue, the fire in his eyes dying down to cold, murderous embers. A reluctant soldier came forward, pushed into striking range by several of his higher ranked officers. He knelt, placing his face to the floor and squeaked out his message.

“We have many-lots strange man things not far off where we stay-be at now, war chief!” the high squeal of the terrified rat saving him from a bloody and painful death as Grint rounded on the newcomer.

“What you mean, strange man things?” Grint’s guttural chirrup caused the soldier to cringe.

“They be demon friends, chief! Strange things with sharp blades and strong armor! They not know we be here, we saw dem first!”

“What they want here?” Grint’s voice continued with its dangerous edge, the fire in his eyes was kindling up again. This was the last thing he wanted, chaos warriors were difficult prey and hard to kill, not easy prey like the soft man creatures.

“We know not, chief, only that they be angry about something, we no stay to find out what…” As the soldier spoke he knew he’d made a mistake. Grint, his anger stoked by this unfortunate turn of events grew even greater at the soldier’s inability to answer him correctly. Grabbing the prostrated ratman’s blunt cleaver from his belt, the warlord laid into the unfortunate creature. It was over in a few brief but violent moments filled with horrible screeches and raw protests. Afterwards, Grint stood over the fresh corpse and turned a questioning eye on his lieutenants.

“What to do with these strange man things? You be very quiet…” Grint stepped slowly towards the quivering group. A silent consensus was held and a very unwilling young rat was pushed out despite desperate squeaks of protest. Grint looked at him questioningly.

“Maybe… we kill the man things?” the young rat whimpered. Grint paused and lowered the blunt cleaver from the recently deceased soldier behind him. Bolstered by the lack of violence displayed by the warlord, the young rat continued. “They have sharp weapons and good armor! We take these things and give them to our troops, and victory will make clan strong!” The rest of the lieutenants, seeing that their subordinate was not being murdered violently also began to grow bolder.

“Yes! we kill man things, and then we go and kill the elf creatures! They die well under demon blades!”

“We gave little rat idea, chief!”

“Strange man things not know we be here, they will die not knowing we be here!” One particularly dull creature stepped forward and draped his arm around the warchief’s shoulders.

“We know you win this time against man things, chief, they be easier to kill than elf things, you no lose this time.” Grint turned a cruel smile on the dullard. It was several minutes before the screaming stopped, but when it did Grint looked over at his remaining commanders and raised himself to his full height.

“Ready ta troops, we march on the man things, take their armor and then we go after the elf creatures again.”

* * * * *

Gethus smiled coldly at the armored figure before him. His blood-slicked armor seemed to glow in the afternoon light. This proud warrior had dared to defy Gethus, his crude logic arguing that since Aantar was dead, that the horde no longer needed to follow the plague sorcerer’s orders. It took several minutes, but soon enough the armored figure was hacking blood and phlegm upon the ground as the illness that Gethus had “gifted” him began to take hold. The dying warrior’s comrades backed away slowly as Gethus stepped over the coughing corpse at his feet.

“Does anyone else see a problem with my command?” Gethus whispered with his ruined voice. “No? Then I suggest you prepare the troops to march, the elves and Nicodemus are already several days ahead of us, and we can afford no further delays due to incompetent attempts to seize power. Remember that Archaon himself sent us on this mission and becoming warlord of this rabble will mean little to him if we in turn lose the Felblade!” While Gethus could not raise his voice above a hoarse whisper, it carried far and the now cowed warriors shrank back from the sorcerer. Gethus stared around at the motley crew that was left for him to command after Aantar’s spectacular defeat. He had no idea how he was to complete their mission at this point, a large portion of the army had already left to ransack the local countryside or return back to the main body of the army. A sudden trumpet blast interrupted the leprous lord’s thoughts. It came from the east side of camp and was announcing an attack. Gethus stalked over and grabbed his scythe before moving to his rotting steed which waited for him. Gethus was glad for the distraction and the opportunity for violence as it suited his mood just fine.

* * * * *

Daggon shifted in his saddle, something nagged at the back of his mind, but he couldn’t quite place it. It had been about three days since his forces had routed the skaven army, an army led by a great horned demon, an aspect of their “horned rat” that they revere. His troops had smashed through their lines and put the ratmen to flight. After the battle was finished Nicodemus had approached him and informed him that he was taking a companionship of knights with him to go after Lianthur and fortify the dwarves at the necropolis in Mousillon. He’d already sent out scouts to track their progress and guide them to the other army that was making its way to rendezvous with the dwarves and Lady Lucas. Daggon had quickly agreed, leaving behind a small company of elves to help Nicodemus’s Sir Grimme and his footmen protect the refugees back to the city of Mousillon.

So it was that the column had split off from the band of refugees and made towards the necropolis indicated by the returning scouts who had found Lianthur’s trail. Yet, during the past few days it seemed as though Daggon’s mind had cleared somewhat, as if he had woken from a daydream. The world seemed sharper and odd details were beginning to stick out in his memory. His mind strayed back to their journey across the great ocean from Ulthuan. He remembered the strange death of the fleetmaster the night before the great storm that blew them off course… only, try as he might Daggon could not remember the storm that had driven them off course. He kept trying to reason this hole in his memory as best he could, thinking that perhaps he had slept through the tempest only he could not bring himself to believe any excuse his mind could think of. His memory was even fuzzy regarding their departure from Ulthuaan, he couldn’t remember who had ordered their voyage, or when. Nor could he remember much of anything until they had landed at Bretonnia for that matter. His memory became even fuzzier as he tried to remember anything about Lianthur, the prince had simply appeared to command the voyage to the Old World. Daggon was very surprised to discover that he had no idea as to what Lianthur’s pedigree was, who his father was or from what kingdom he hailed. Interspersed within all of these holes in his memory were simply flashes of a flickering purple light. Daggon could not explain it, but he felt that something sinister was the cause. Looking ahead to the horizon, Daggon spotted a returning scout, moving at a break-neck speed. Something about the scout’s gate and his frantic body language only added to the elf prince’s growing anxiety.

* * * * *

Lianthur stood at the entrance of the tomb, the stench of decay filling his nose with offensive odors and the prince sneered in disgust.

“The Lady Lucas and your general are already down there, are they?” Lianthur turned to the dwarven sentries posted at the makeshift door.

“Aye, they be doon there alreddy,” one of the clansmen responded.

“And they said they’ve found the Felblade, for sure?”

“They don’t be tellin’ us much fer now, and we dinnae ask many questions, but from the way they was movin’ and talkin’ was that we’d soon be leavin’ this foetid swamp.” The dwarf’s impatience was barely noticeable on his implacable features, but Lianthur could hear the whisper of it upon his gravelly voice. He indulged himself with a few more simple questions designed specifically to get the sentry’s blood rising. Once this small pleasure was satisfied and Lianthur was convinced that their quarry was at hand he turned to his troops and nodded with a smile to his chief swordmaster.

* * * * *

“They are all dead!” the Bretonnian scout gasped once he was inside Nicodemus’s hastily constructed tent. Nicodemus motioned for him to lower his voice.

“Calm yourself, man! Take a moment and gather your thoughts before you speak, who is dead? Were you ambushed by the ratmen? What has happened?” Nicodemus spoke in a quiet yet insistent way that gave steel to the scout’s spine and after a few shuddered breaths the scout continued.

“We were tracking ahead, following your elf prince’s trail when we came upon what seemed like the scene of a battle. At first we thought that maybe they had been attacked by the skaven as well, but we couldn’t find any ratmen bodies, and then we looked closer at the bodies that had been left. They had been stripped naked and left to rot in the sun, the position of their bodies in unnatural poses and their faces twisted into visages of total agony. My lord, someone had taken a blade to their flesh and carved all sorts of blasphemous things into them, and from the looks of their bodies it was done while they were still alive!” As the scout had continued his report, his voice had increased in volume and speed until he had to gasp for breath at the end. However, Daggon had already guessed what the scout’s report meant. The scout placed a burlap sack he had brought with him before his lord, bloody gore covered the bottom half of the bag, suggesting horrible things that lay within it. Nicodemus slowly reached up and pulled the head of Sir Thomas from the sack, his head had been shaved and intricate lines laced his bare scalp. Foremost among them was a symbol that Daggon knew well, as did Alred who spoke next.

“The Cult of Slaanesh!” His astonished exhale breathed out terrible import. Nicodemus looked at the aged wizard questioningly even as he fought back a terrible rage that burned fiercely behind his eyes. “We are betrayed!”

* * * * *

Lianthur shivered as the last of the dwarven sentries slid off his blade, the light behind his eyes flickering like a candle in a tempest before leaving entirely. He glanced back at the rest of the elves in his party were finishing off the rest of the small group that had been left as a rearguard for the rest of the dwarven army that still searched below within the crypt. Lianthur moved past his personal guard, the only elves he could trust, and towards the elves who had a confused look on their faces, as if they were waking from a deep sleep and were having difficulty separating dream from reality. Lianthur weaved the complex motions and spoke the blasphemous tongue of the intricate enchantment he had been weaving over his puppets for the past several months. One by one the elves each gained focus and turned to look expectantly at Lianthur.

“It was sadly a necessary thing to do, the dwarves were threatening to take the Fellblade themselves, our hand was forced against them,” Lianthur purred and the elves nodded. The spell was an intricate one, and it required months of concentrated effort to have its full effect, but when done correctly it granted Lianthur varying degrees of control over his subjects. He had been careful at the beginning of the voyage to only exert a little bit of suggestion over the elves, allowing the spell to slowly break down their resistance to it. Allowing Slaanesh to weave through their memories and alter them to fit Lianthur’s own needs. The simple facts came down to this: the longer the spell was used on an individual the more powerful its hold was over them. For the elves that had been with Lianthur for months now, the hold was very strong. It was a shame that he’d been forced to kill the Bretonnian knights earlier, but with only a few days with them the spell would barely do more than allow Lianthur to suggest that they sleep while the elves took first watch. Which allowed them to slaughter them in the night, at least most of them. Lianthur was still annoyed that due to the speed required of their mission, he was only able to wring a few precious hours of screaming from that pompous Sir Thomas before they were forced to move on. Daggon and his lieutenants had been another strange factor. Daggon was strangely resistant to Lianthur’s suggestions, sometimes even blatantly disregarding them, and this bolstered those close to him. Which was why Lianthur had left him behind. Now he needed to simply kill the dwarves below, take the Blade for his master and then deliver it to the Everchosen in the north. Another shiver of pleasure tickled the prince’s spine as he felt the sticky resistance of drying blood on the stone floor as he stepped into the stone tomb.

* * * * *

Alred spoke slowly as he detailed the history of the infamous cult. “Few outside of our own race know this, but our race was responsible for the birth of Slaanesh. Long ago before man had crawled out of his primordial ooze, our race gave birth to the God of Excess with our own lustful gluttony. It is for this reason that Slaanesh specifically looks to the destruction of all elves. At the time that this happened, the majority of our people repented of their ways and resumed their fight against Chaos. But a small minority of our people embraced the Dark Prince and gave up their souls for a few years of sinful ecstasy, they formed groups known as the Pleasure Cults and infiltrated our society in attempts to corrupt it from within. Any kind of vice you can think of could be found within these orders, and nothing was forbidden, the members of these cults burned with passion that would destroy any lesser mortal shell.” Alred looked at Daggon meaningfully. “Their presence has been a persistent problem in our somewhat turbulent history.”

“How many of your troops could be members of this cult?” Nicodemus’s stare would have broken steel.

“I did not even know that one of them was in our ranks, much less enough to kill an entire regiment of your knights.” Alred sputtered. Something finally clicked in Daggon’s mind, and he rose sharply and began moving towards the tent door.

“Where are you going?” Nicodemus demanded.

“There is only one traitor in our midst. Lianthur has bewitched my soldiers, and I am going to end him.”

“How can you be sure that he is the only traitor?” Alred questioned. Daggon turned slightly to face his old friend.

“Think back to the voyage here, do you remember what happened to the fleetmaster? Do you remember how he died? Can you even recall the storm that blew us off course?” Daggon was almost shouting at this point, his usual elven composure shattered in the face of this treachery. Allred stared blankly at his prince.

“You don’t mean that he…?”

“Yes, he told us what he wanted us to remember, we have all been under his spell. He meant to come here to Bretonnia the entire time, this was never an accident. I’m beginning to wonder if there was ever even a real order for us to set sail from Ulthuaan. I have been wondering why there was when our homeland has been so besieged by demons. We have been fools, puppets for the Dark Prince. What horrors have been wrought by our hands and we don’t even remember them!” With this, Daggon turned and stormed out of the tent, no one dared bar his way after looking once upon his terrible visage. Whistling for Archaiadynami, Daggon lept into the dragon’s saddle before the beast had even fully landed and was airborne again before the dust had settled. The prince made a hard line to the east, pushing his steed as hard as he could. Even at this point, though, he knew he would be too late.


   
Made in us
Crazy Marauder Horseman







Spoiler:
I have really enjoyed writing up this story to go along with a campaign, but I'd also like to know what others think of it, if anyone is even casually reading this, feel free to throw in your input. The best part about this story is that it is pretty much all written already, so I'm not going to just disappear halfway through a finished story, you'll get a fully complete story (and it is the size of your average sized novel).

Basically I'm asking anyone who is taking a chance on this story to please just give me a bit of feedback, tell me something I'm doing right, and something that I may have messed up on, or that you think I could've done better as I'm not 100% sure of my deep fluff, so there may be some areas that I mix up something or make some error against the canon.

Thanks for reading!

   
Made in us
Crazy Marauder Horseman







Chapter 8: The Race for the Blade

Malachai’s blood was on fire! His new body moved lithely beneath its reptilian skin and his tail swished violently behind him. The power that coursed through his veins left him with a constant sense of adrenaline and the world seemed bright before him. Standing at an even higher vantage, the newly raised Demon Prince marvelled at his own twisted beauty. He stretched his wings behind him, their leathery tendons spread several spans and caused his permanent fanged grin to widen even further. His master had been exceedingly pleased by the sacrifice of the dwarven ranger atop the arcane fulcrum within the Necropolis and had gifted his servant with an eternity with which to wreak havoc among the mortals. Even now his claws itched to rend flesh and unleash balefire to consume the enemies of Tzeentch. With the constant flow of adrenaline that pumped through his body, Malachai found it difficult to stay focused on his mission. His troops had largely been scattered, but that made little difference to the demonic sorcerer, he could always summon new demonic allies from beyond the frayed fabric of reality that hung over this existence. A fabric that was growing progressively thinner as the days counted down to the End Times.

Malachai stalked over to his lieutenant, Aantar’s pet standard bearer, Toldek. The silent warrior still clutched the cursed standard in his hand and met Malachai’s steady gaze without flinching. This bothered the newly raised demon more than he would have thought it would.

“Prepare the men, we are marching back to that tomb and claiming the Blade.” Malachai’s voice tore at one’s sanity, seeming to be both a high pitched scream and a low rumbling bass at the same time. Toldek did not even flinch, but rather nodded and moved off towards the remaining troops. How he communicated with them was beyond Malachai, as the standard bearer never spoke, but somehow his troops intuitively knew what he wanted them to do. Malachai smiled and stretched his wings to their full length. Then he pushed off the ground with magically enhanced strength, propelling him into the sky as he flew towards their goal, the terrible host beneath him marching at a brisk pace. Malachai would not fail to claim the blade this time.

* * * * *

Kazek sat back as the last of the elves had either fled the field or fallen to the ground in a stupor. He’d had a very confusing past few days. What with the Chaos hordes attacking outside of the tomb, and then the bloody elves striking at them with their backhanded tactics. A lucky missile had managed to take down the sorcerer what had been leading them, which had had an interesting effect on the remaining elves after he’d fled the battlefield with his retinue. The remaining elves fought as if they were waking up from a dream, sometimes just standing still in a daze while the dwarves shot them down from a distance. Even so, in the end the elves and the northmen had taken quite the toll on the dwarven warriors, managing to slay outright one of the dwarven engineers that had been manning the cannons. The chaos worshippers had burned the famous dragon slayer to death with witchfire, and the longbeards were exhausted to the point of collapse after having fought in both battles, as well as the last battle with the skaven over at Maurice’s Crossing. The forced march, mixed with the various injuries had driven that unit nearly to the ground. But the most confusing thing of all was when the Elven prince flew in atop his dragon and blasted the frost phoenix from behind, which seemed to be the final blow that caused the last of the elves that were still standing to fall into a stupor. As it stood, the elves had done their damage: the dwarves were worn and tired, their lines were thin, and the elves that had stayed behind after that treacherous sorcerer departed were stuck in a dream-like trance and unusable. Still, the dwarves had kept the chaos followers from reaching the cavern with the Blade. Even now, the miners were disarming the last of the hellish traps that had been left to ward off looters and would be thieves. In a matter of hours, they would be able to enter the cavern where the Blade was being held and seize it before the ratmen or the northmen could get their hands on it.

What troubled Kazek, however, was what the human sorceress had said: that she felt the presence of several powerful artifacts in this cavern, and that it might take even longer to properly identify which one is the Felblade copy. Also, the treacherous sorcerer was still out there somewhere and might try to seize control of the comatose elves again at any given moment. Not only that, but the remnant of the Chaos army could regroup and make a push for the cavern as easily as any of the other armies. Each hour that they were delayed was another hour that would permit for something else to go wrong. To say that Kazek was anxious would be an understatement.

* * * * *

Once again Grint was furious as he laid about killing random slaves that his lieutenants were practically throwing in front of him, hoping to sate his violent temper. After what seemed like an eternity to the short-lived ratmen, Grint turned to stare at his commanders and raised a questioning eyebrow at them.

“You be worthless to me!” Grint screamed “Why should I even keep you around!?” A goggle-eyed engineer stepped tentatively forward and the entire group stared at him, even Grint was caught off guard by the brash move.

“Your most highness” The engineer snivelled “I have a plan-idea that may help us fight-kill the cursed man things.” Grint snarled but motioned for the brave rat to proceed. “If I could take-steal the piles of flesh-skin that were left after Chaos beast finished with our clanrats, I feel that I could make-make a creature-thing that will force the musk of fear into hearts of enemies. It may take many days, but when it be ready, you be happy-glad you let me do this!” Showing an immense amount of restraint, Grint weighed the engineer’s words. What he said made some sense, besides what else were those piles of moaning flesh going to be useful for? The chaos beast had wrecked some massive transformative spell upon them and had wiped out over half of the regiment. Grint swallowed his frustration at the fact that this solution did not solve any present predicament and gave his approval for the engineer to proceed. He scuttled away quickly to collect his prize and begin his work. Grint turned to his commanders yet again and was about to speak when a sixth sense warned him of a presence behind him. Whirling quickly, Grint found himself almost nose-to-nose with a black-clad assassin. Grint moved to slash at the assailant but caught himself in time when he noticed that the attacker was not attacking, and then Grint recognized the assassin as one of his own mercenaries he’d hired for this campaign.

“What you want?” Grint snarled.

“I bring report-news of man things to the east,” the assassin whispered “they find Blade and be getting ready to claim-take it! If we go quick now, we might get there first! Sneeky Klaw know secret-sneak way through lost tunnels, we make it quick fast in time to seize prize before man things make it!”

Finally Grint managed to smile, this was good news. He reared up and began bellowing orders to organize the troops and begin moving out, he would not be denied his prize!

* * * * *

Gethus walked through the victorious camp, the battle had done wonders to boost morale especially with the spells that he had been able to reap on the ratmen, the men were so terrified of him now after watching him summon a Demon Prince to do his bidding that they would never even imagine contesting his command at this point. It had been a glorious day indeed. Much slaughter had been offered up to his deities and virulent gifts had been bestown most generously throughout the battlefield. The light was fading fast at this point and Gethus had his tent thrown up and waiting for him. Tomorrow, on the wave of this fresh victory, his troops would march on Mousillon and raze it to the ground, this idea infused Gethus with a renewed zeal and hope for his own redemption. Those feelings dissipated as he opened the flap of his tent and stepped inside. He sensed more than he saw that something was in there waiting for him. The presence wasn’t moving, but in the close dark of the rotting canvas tent it was impossible to see further than the reach of one’s hand. Gethus breathed a short incantation and stabbed his spear into the ground three times, on the third motion a sickly light filled the tent and what he beheld caused the plague sorcerer to gasp in alarm as a blue skinned hand sprang forward to wrap around his throat and he found himself staring into two horrible, empty eye sockets that held only malice and despair for everything it saw. Gethus knew those eyes.

“You!” he gasped as the claws twisted tighter around his already ruined throat.

* * * * *

Gregor stood beside the door as the pegasus knight descended in a cloud of dust from his beating wings. The young knight watched as the magnificent creature came to a graceful landing before him, seeming to bow almost as if in a dance. He had been anxiously awaiting news from Nicodemus for some days now, ever since the ratmen had been repelled from the walls and the last message had been that they were fleeing from before a Chaos invasion force. No word had come for over a week now and Gregor was worried as to what might have happened. Indeed he had been mustering Trinidad with his Youngling knights to march out to their aid, they still were in full armor and ready to ride out even now. Before Gregor had been able to give that word, a yeomen had cried out that he saw a flier in the distance, and so the young knight had stayed his command in order to wait and see what this new turn of events might bring. His excitement grew when he saw that it was one of the pegasus knights in Nicodemus’s company and was confident that the knight would bear them news of their lord’s progress.

The pegasus knight deftly dismounted his unorthodox mount and walked towards Gregor, removing his helm as he did so to reveal blonde hair and a shock of blue eyes beneath a layer of dust that coated the knight’s whole being. The knight marched up to Gregor and briskly saluted him. Gregor acknowledged the salute with one of his own and nodded for his counterpart to proceed.

“My Lord Gregor! I bring both fair and ill news for you at this time. The fair news is that one of our foes lies slain at the hands of the elves. Aantar the Forlorn is no more, and our lord’s soul knows rest at this bit of fortune. Upon his fall, the forces he commanded scattered and lost direction, allowing for Nicodemus and the refugees from the mountain to make good their escape, they have punched through the ratmen and are even now approaching Mousillon, they have lost nary a soul in their march and have made good their escape, we feel. However, there has been treachery among the ranks of the elves, for one of their sorcerers has bewitched a portion of their troops and even now marches on the Fellblade which is beneath a nearby necropolis. The elven prince Daggon did ride forth on his dragon to give them battle, but a vast majority of the remainder of the troops will not make it in time to give aid in the fight. What’s worse is that my scouts have sent word that a Chaos remnant force is mobilizing to again march on the necropolis and will arrive shortly. My lord Nicodemus bid me fly ahead and mobilize you to go and aid the beleaguered dwarven forces and the Lady Lucas if we hurry, we should be able to make it before the Chaos forces converge on the Blade!” Gregor took a deep breath in order to digest the massive amount of information he had just been given. Nicodemus was alive, and so were the refugees, they would be arriving shortly but they needed him to march out and fortify the expedition force at a nearby necropolis, this seemed a simple enough task. It was as though the Lady had been guiding him in having his knights ready to ride before the pegasus had even been spotted. They would ride within the hour!

* * * * *

Daggon heaved another elven corpse onto the pile, the weight of his dead soldier seeming to stay on his shoulders long after the body had left them. His eyes roved over the mass of dead that had been caused by Lianthur’s treachery and for a moment his normally impassive elven features cracked and his eyes strained to hold back the frustrated tears as hot fire boiled over his emotions. So many of his troops, his responsibilities, lay strewn about the ground. Not to mention the dead dwarves who were killed fighting against those who they thought were allies. The dwarves had sent for aid to replenish their lost troops, but such as it was they were a ragtag group of warriors and so tired from fighting and marching that they would be easily overwhelmed at this point. It had been little more than a month and a half since Daggon and his forces had landed in Bretonnia and in that time more of his troops had fallen than in several successful campaigns against the Naggarothi, so bloody the fighting had been. This was not the careful exchange of battle that Daggon had known fighting against his dark cousins, this was simple wanton carnage. The fact that Lianthur had so viciously betrayed them only made the loss cut deeper. These elves shouldn’t have even been here! By now winter was beginning to set in and the troubles back in his homeland had been cataclysmic before he had left, with the upset of the Phoenix king and the arrival of Malekith on the shores of Ulthuaan. Yet, knowing what had happened and the treachery wrought by the villain Lianthur did nothing to assuage the guilt that even now stabbed through Daggon’s stomach like a knife. His home was under siege and here he was, half a world away fighting a brutal war with a savage foe, one that cared nothing for the blood that was spilt and gloried in its own destruction. Lianthur was a cowardly cur that deserved death where his patron deity could spend an eternity removing his organs and even that would not be enough.

Daggon looked up at the vast cavern where he knelt, the bodies of his slain kin spread around him in bloody droves. A rending scream tore itself from his chest, the sound echoing from the distant stalagmites and multiplying the volume throughout the cave. The few startled dwarves that were present and helping to remove the dead stared at him in alarm for a few moments before understanding dawned in their eyes. While ancient grudges still persisted between their old races, this was something that they understood and for a moment a grudging respect crept into their eyes at the anguish the elven prince was feeling. Even if they might disagree with his method of dealing with it, a similar if more somber song had been sung in the halls of their dead for ancestors both recent and ancient, and for the decline of their race a thousand times over.

The hours moved on and Daggon forced himself to once again begin the toil of collecting his dead brethren from off the field so that they could be given a proper send-off. As his wooden arms and legs lifted one lifeless body after another, the elven prince became vaguely aware of another figure nearby doing the same thing. Some part of Daggon was enraged by this, how dare some foreigner touch his kinsmen like they were sacks of grain to be moved to the wagon for shipment, but some other part of him felt a great weight had been shifted as he did not know how much more he could take of touching the dead flesh of those he once led. Daggon’s pride attempted to win out and the elf turned to admonish his would be helper, but as he did so he watched the armoured human slowly and gently place one of the fallen elven cavaliers beside those others from his fallen regiment. This man was no simple labourer or serf sent to speed the process of excavating the bodies, either, his armor bespoke of nobility, even though his expensive parchment colored coat was even now being dragged through the dirt. Had Daggon not been so surprised by this revelation and so numb from hours of this destructive work, he would have noticed a company of Bretonnian knights nearby looking on the scene, waiting patiently. Daggon watched as this newcomer retrieved another fallen elf corpse and reverently carried the body back with him. He did not carry the fallen as he would a sack of meal, thrown over his shoulder or turned over his arm as would be the most physically economical, but rather he cradled them in his arms as he would an injured patient that had to be carefully moved from one bed to another. Daggon’s ire left him in a rush as he watched this and slowly he resumed his own work of bringing his dead back to the wagon. No words passed between them as they followed through their dreadful responsibility. Once the work was done, the armoured human remounted his steed, it was only then that Daggon noticed the other knights, grabbed a standard displaying a golden grail and a hand supporting it by two fingers bordered with embroidered scrolls bearing holy scripture with rich red fabric that hung limp in the underground cavern, and rode off towards the dwarven encampment.

Daggon watched as the train rode off, leaving him alone with the dead. Moving with numbed limbs, the elf prince called Archaiadynami to perform the final rights. The dragonfire would consume their flesh in a final, fitting end. It would be a poor funeral for each of these victims of Lianthur’s treachery, but it was all that he could offer them. As his draconic steed breathed the living flame onto the bodies and the tongues of fire began to lick across the necrotic flesh, Daggon lowered his head and fought against the darkness welling up inside of him.

* * * * *

“We didn’t really have time for all that,” Trinidad spoke easily as the unit of knights rode further away from the battlefield with the elf, the dragonfire lighting up the dim cavern as the smell of roasting flesh filled the air.

“There is a reason that your regiment is referred to as the Youngling regiment,” Gregor spoke in a gentler tone that hinted at reproach. “When you experience the crucible which that elf is facing now, then you can presume to judge my actions, not before.” Trinidad stared at the older knight for a few critical moments before tilting his head back and letting out a boisterous laugh.

“As you say, my lord” the laughter left traces in his tone as the young champion returned his helm to cover his head.

“Besides, you could have helped me if you were in such a hurry,” Gregor’s eyes smoldered with hot coals as he stared ahead, and his voice dripped ice from his subordinate’s callous reply.

“Ah, but that is peasant’s work, I’m surprised you stooped so low,” Trinidad’s voice echoed from inside of his helmet, but one could detect a sense of reprobation in it.

‘There is nothing ignoble about honoring the dead, they have sacrificed more than you or I. There is nothing more noble than that.” Gregor’s eyes remained focused ahead, and the younger knight risked a glance at him, a different kind of smile crept onto his face, one for which he was glad that his helmet hid. It would not do to show outward signs of admiration.

“It seems we have arrived, Sir Gregor”

The dwarven expedition reared up before them in the twisting tunnels that were oddly built large enough to just support the Bretonnian lance of knights that currently rode down its smoothed dirt floors. Gregor had felt unease about riding his horse underground, but it was customary for Bretonnian lords to build their tombs in such a way as this. It seems that even this deep, this particular noble had deep pockets to afford such a vast tomb.

As they drew nearer, the Lady Lucas approached them, her eyes seemed distant as they looked over Gregor and his cohorts.

“You’re too late for the action, I’m afraid.” The Lady Lucas’s voice shook as she answered, “the dwarves are in the process of breaking the final seal into the next cavern, where I’m certain the Blade lies. They have a few more traps to disarm before we dare open the door.”

“This is good news, but we bring bad tidings for you,” Gregor replied “,there is a Chaos host preparing to march here, they will be upon us within a matter of hours, I’m afraid.” Lucas’s eyes opened wide and her movements became frantic as she stepped back from the knight.

“They’re coming here!? But how? The dwarfs killed them all, I thought!”

“It seems as though you were mistaken, they are coming, and they will likely be angry from their previous encounter with you.” Gregor meant to say more but at that moment Lady Lucas fell back on her haunches and began rocking back and forth on her heels, her shoulders shaking from uncontrollable sobs.

“I can’t! I won’t!” She whispered, repeating herself over and over again. Gregor dismounted and lifted the lady’s face up by placing a finger under her chin. Shimmering eyes looked up at Gregor, and great tears coursed down her cheeks. She held his gaze for a moment before her eyes glazed over and she once again began her repeated mantra again. Gregor sighed and, turning towards his unit, motioned for two of his knights to approach where he gave them orders to ensure that the Lady Lucas would be taken somewhere to rest. After seeing to the Lady, Gregor turned to walk away.

“My lord? Where are you going?” Trinidad called out.

“To find the dwarf commander, our news is dire and they need to know it so that we can plan accordingly.” Gregor strode swiftly through the dwarven throng, and after asking a few questions was directed to a gruff looking runesmith waiting in front of a large, ornately carved stone door, several dwarven engineers were working meticulously around the base of the portal.

“My good dwarven lord,” Gregor saluted as he approached. The runesmith eyed the newcomer and harumphed gruffly to acknowledge him. “My lord,” Gregor continued after a few moments of silence passed between them “there are warriors of Chaos approaching. I fear that there is not much time, perhaps a few hours, before they are upon us. We must get to the Blade before then and either flee before they arrive, or prepare to meet them head on.”

Again the dwarf was silent, his only communication a curt nod.

“How long until your miners and engineers can have this door open?” Gregor asked, his voice taking on a perturbed edge. At this the dwarf finally spoke.

“‘Twill be open in a matter a’ minutes, lad, dinnae ye fret, supposin’ yer hag o’er there can fin’ the Blade quickly, we should nae be more than a few minutes in n’ oot, I’d say.”

“Yes, there’s a bit of a problem there, it seems as though the Lady Lucas is… incapacitated for the time being.” Gregor winced as he spoke.

‘The lass has had a taste a’ fear from the Chaos worshippers. I take it ya told her aboot the comin’ foe?” The runesmith glanced at Gregor for a response, who nodded, “that was no a good idea, lad, but we’ll make do. I think we can find it if’n we try hard enough, but I think we’d best prepare to fight rather than flee.” Again, Gregor nodded. After several minutes, one of Gregor’s knights came riding up to the gate where the engineers were still working.

“My Lord! That elf you found on our way in here is approaching, and he bears with him a small contingent of his forces from Nicodemus’s party, they say they marched here ahead of the main body when they heard that there might be another force of Chaos making a move on the Blade.” The knight reported as he reigned in and dismounted.

“Well there’s some good news, at least.” Gregor muttered, and shortly thereafter he was greeted with more good news as one of the engineers cackled as he pushed open the door into the next cavern. What met their eyes next was difficult to conceive. Five towers sat in the middle of the gigantic tomb, each one adorned with a black flyr d’lees. Gregor gave a start as a sudden realization dawned upon him.

“I know whose tomb this is! It is the tomb of Landuin Mousillon, the great companion of Gilles Le Breton himself! That makes sense why the tomb was able to be so large, it must have been added to by his descendants for generations, that would explain all the other caverns before this one!” Gregor and his fellow knight made signs of the Lady above their chests and fell to one knee in reverence. After a few minutes, Gregor rose and turned to the dwarf, who was watching expectantly. “Master Dwarf, we know that the Blade is somewhere in this cavern. If you will take your dwarves and begin searching the east corner, I will send a runner to the elves asking them to search the western corner, my companions and I will search the northern corner and we can all meet back here at the southern entrance when we have finished.”

“A moment, lad, there’s something that be not right about this place,” the runesmith replied. “I’m sensing more than one artifact, several in fact, and each one of them could be the Blade we are seeking, your sorceress also sensed it afore we een opened the door. I sense treachery afoot.”

“Be that as it may, the plan remains unchanged, we will split the cavern into quadrants and search it equally.” Gregor nodded to the young knight who ran off to issue his orders. The dwarf muttered something about “impatient tall oaf” but quickly moved off to organize his own troops to begin the search.

* * * * *

Gregor reigned in as his troops arrived at the far corner of the cavern from the door. Issuing order, Gregor had his men spread out to begin searching for the Blade. As he did so, something seemed to whisper at his ear. Gregor turned to see the source of the susurrus but found no one there. Shaking his head, the knight turned to continue issuing orders, and when he did so he found a most radiant woman standing before him. Her body was clothed in shimmering samite and golden thread, her hair was liquid fire as it cascaded down across her shoulders, and her eyes penetrated into Gregor’s very soul. In her hand she bore a simple, golden chalice. Gregor gasped, realizing whose countenance he beheld and quickly dismounted to kneel. As he prostrated himself, the Lady of the Lake lifted his face gently with her soft hand so that his eyes fell upon the banner of his Lord Nicodemus. Slowly, the hand of the flag turned ever so slowly so that it was pointing towards the center of the cavern. Nicodemus squinted in confusion and turned to question the Lady, but when he turned he found nothing there. But, filling his vision now were the five towers. Gradually, understanding dawned upon the knight and he stood to call out to his allies.
“The Blade is in one of the towers!” Gregor’s bold voice carried across the entire cave, both the dwarves and the elves looked up at his call. Gregor cried out his revelation again before the ground began to shake. Caught off guard, the knight staggered and caught himself upon his saddle. Looking behind him he witnessed as the solid dirt wall behind him came tumbling to the ground in a wave of black dirt and shattered rock. As the dust cleared, Gregor saw a nightmare scene of ratmen and glowing green energy displayed before him. Leaping into his saddle, the standard bearer ordered his men into formation before racing towards the nearest ally to regroup, raising the alarm as his men raced across the earthen floor. As he rounded the bend of one of the towers, Gregor cursed as he saw another bleak sight. The Chaos worshippers had already arrived and were arraying themselves for battle.

This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 2015/08/31 14:34:40


   
Made in gb
[DCM]
Bread for Battle!





In Town

 Gromgor wrote:
Spoiler:
I have really enjoyed writing up this story to go along with a campaign, but I'd also like to know what others think of it, if anyone is even casually reading this, feel free to throw in your input. The best part about this story is that it is pretty much all written already, so I'm not going to just disappear halfway through a finished story, you'll get a fully complete story (and it is the size of your average sized novel).

Basically I'm asking anyone who is taking a chance on this story to please just give me a bit of feedback, tell me something I'm doing right, and something that I may have messed up on, or that you think I could've done better as I'm not 100% sure of my deep fluff, so there may be some areas that I mix up something or make some error against the canon.

Thanks for reading!
I'm gonna pop it on my e-reader and give it a go over the weekend.
I find reading anything this long on Dakka to be very tiring, ironically.


[ Mordian 183rd ] - an ongoing Imperial Guard story with crayon drawings!
[ "I can't believe it's not Dakka!" ] - a buttery painting and crafting blog
[ Build-a-Commissar Workshop ] - a group commissar cadet writing project 
   
Made in us
Crazy Marauder Horseman







Thanks, I appreciate it, and I totally understand the tiring part.

   
Made in us
Crazy Marauder Horseman







Sorry everybody, I was sick yesterday and totally forgot to post the update...

Chapter 9: The Beginning of the Long Winter

Several things led to the collapse of the cavern that held the remains of the once great companion known as Landuin Mousillon. Most of the blame lay with the Skaven, but not all. The ratmen contributed with the cataclysmic explosion of one of their fabled Doomwheels which rocked the entire cave and sent huge cracks racing up the earthen walls. The second was the haphazard firing of their rockets which managed to hit more of the crystallized roof crags and caused even further cracks to develop. The final blow, however, came when the Chaos Demon Prince Malachai was pulled back into the realm of chaos upon a backlash of the Winds of Magic. This triggered a magical implosion that rippled across the already fractured cave structure and finally undid what thousands of years of erosion could not. The elven mage Lynn, along with a retinue of swordmasters, barely managed to ghost into the central tower and quickly seize the FelBlade and run through a contingency of chaos worshippers and ratmen that were converging on their position to regain the safety of an expeditious retreat with the great artifact in hand. A large number of Chaos worshippers and ratmen were not so lucky. The dwarves had long since pulled back before the collapse could even begin, their sense of the foundational stonework giving them far advanced warning before the cavern could fall on them.

Gregor rode at the head of his column, racing through the tunnels that were cracking all around him. The new found green hued blade at his side pulsed as the crackling energies that were tearing apart the tomb responded to its own power and throbbed in sync with one another. His men had been forced to stop and secure the Lady Lucas, who now rode with Gregor in front of him in his saddle, her forlorn gaze seemingly oblivious to the destruction around her. A pile of rocks came crashing down to Gregor’s right, causing his horse to rear in astonishment. Gregor pulled hard on the reins to avoid the debris and had his horse been anything other than the trained war stallion that it was they would have been crushed under the weight of those stones. But Gregor’s horse was a noble Bretonnian steed and so responded immediately to its’ master’s commands, veering sharply to avoid the crashing rocks Gregor wheeled his horse around and again began moving forward. Up ahead he could see the pale light of the dying day shining through a crack in the cavern. It was not the main entrance that they had used to enter the catacombs, but the violent seizures caused by the collapsing tunnels below had ripped a hollow wound in the earth’s surface and could possibly be the knights’ salvation as Gregor and his troops rode at breakneck speed to escape the crushing chasm behind them.

The horses’ lathered flanks pressed their muscles harder into service as they powered the last few yards to the opening and lept out onto the marshy wasteland and the open air, but even then they were not safe. The ground still quivered beneath them and Gregor watch in horror as the earth split and swallowed two of his knights whole, engulfing them to their deaths beneath the sodden dirt in a bloody tumult of rocks and sinew. The banner bearer bellowed orders to continue riding as even more cracks in the surface began snaking towards his men. The knights continued their fevered pace, as sickly trees and moss covered boulders to each side of them fell beneath the collapsing ground. The cracks were forcing themselves through the harrowed landscape at an alarming pace and Gregor feared that his horse would give out before they reached safety. Behind him the ground gave way to a yawning chasm that stretched back for what seemed forever. Another rent in the ground devoured a fleeing knight to Gregor’s left, but even as it did so he noticed that the quakes were growing less intense, and the cracks were travelling at a much slower pace.

Looking forward, Gregor saw that the ground was beginning to peel away, the cracks had reached their apex but now the damaged ground was giving way. There was still some hundred yards to go to reach solid earth and the ground below the knights had turned into a mirish quicksand that was cloying at the cavaliers and pulling them backwards. Urging his stallion on, Gregor barked out encouragement to the other knights around him, seeing Trinidad to his right with his helm lost somewhere amidst the escape, his face was drawn tight and outright fear was etched into his features.

“Come on Trinidad, boy! You have yet to fully earn your honour! Will you let mere dirt and rocks be the end to your heroic tale?” Gregor tilted back his head and barked a harsh laugh that carried through the terrible rumblings of the collapsing earth. Trinidad was shocked by this but quickly recovered and gave a tense laugh in reply, spurring his horse on even harder the young knight urged his fellow knights on as well. The firm ground crept closer against the melting surface below them. Gregor noticed that they were beginning to fall backwards into the depths that the cavern had opened up behind them, and that the firm ground was rising up like a beacon in the storm: visible but unreachable.

“Lucas! Snap out of it! We need your aid!” Gregor shook the damsel by her shoulders and for the first time she seemed to come to her senses and notice what was happening around her. Her jaw set in a firm resolution that Gregor had remembered from before and she looked heavenward and raised her arms, chanting in some language that the knight did not understand. All around the knights the air seemed to grow thick and the ground seemed to slow in its destructive descent. The dirt moved at a snail’s pace as the knights’ movements sped up, they began to gain ground as Lucas’s spell solidified into being and Gregor realized that the earth was not moving slower, but rather that the knights’ movements had sped up, allowing them to regain their lost ground. The solid earth crept closer, but Lucas’s body began to tremble under the strain of maintaining the spell. Gregor again yelled out encouragement and spurred his horse on, its drained body pushing with the last of its strength and its heart bursting at the effort. the dirt was already beginning to speed up as the cavaliers’ movements began to slow. With a heroic last push and a bawling yell, Gregor pushed his horse onto solid ground and turned to watch as his men made the final vault themselves. Just before the last knight made it across the threshold, Lucas sighed and collapsed back against Gregor, her strength exhausted by the monumental effort. The last knight had also lost his helm and Gregor watched as his eyes widened in shock as the tumbling dirt rose up and pulled him back into the gaping hole that they had just raced to escape.

“No!” Trinidad screamed, reaching out to help his comrade, but there was nothing he could do to stop the crushing debris as the earth enfolded the disappearing knight into its embrace. In a moment the world stood still again as the water from the marshes began soaking the shifted dirt and solidifying it into a leaden mass that would forever hold its own secrets. The tomb of Mousillon had been sealed irrevocably and its treasures lost to the mortal realm. The sudden quiet struck a discordant note against the ringing in the survivors’ ears as they stared at the wanton destruction caused by the collapse of the catacombs.

A dark shadow overhead brought Gregor out of his reverie and he stared upwards to see a large shape descending from above. A giant dragon landed several yards behind them on the solid ground and the banner bearer turned to face the newcomer. Dismounting, Gregor recognized the dragon rider and was confident in his peaceful intent. The elven prince Daggon also dismounted from his steed and walked over to speak with the Bretonnian knight. Dark bags had gathered under the prince’s eyes, and the whites of those eyes had taken on a bloodied aura. The steps he took seemed leaden, but whether that was caused by the trembling earth or the anguished ghosts clinging to the elf, he couldn’t say.

“I’m pleased to see that you made it out alive,” Daggon’s voice was scratchy from misuse.

“Not all of us, I’m afraid, but enough. Do we have the Blade?” Gregor slowly removed his helm from his head so that the elf could look him in the eyes. The Prince must have seen something there for he paused before speaking again.

“Yes, it is being transported to the city of Mousillon now. My soldiers are safeguarding it and from what I saw in the air, the dwarves are preparing to rendezvous with them within the next few miles. However, they are on the opposite side of this new canyon, and I think it may take you a few days to make it around it and back to your city in the swamp. Especially since I have seen pockets of Chaos worshippers who survived the cave in spread out in the woods around here, it will be dangerous going. My dragon and I will go hunting and try to prepare a path for you, but just be warned that you may encounter some resistance.” The way that Daggon spoke of hunting seemed to show a dark glint in his eye, some black anticipation of violence, as if he were hoping for bloodshed. Gregor was caught off guard by this almost blatant display of emotion on an otherwise stone-faced countenance.

“I’m sure my men can handle it, but our horses need rest, and the day is ending. We will camp here tonight and take up the journey tomorrow, I think.” Gregor spoke haltingly and watched the elf nod in agreement.

“You know your men, I will watch from the skies and keep you safe so you may rest.” Daggon gave a grim smile. “I just realized that I do not have your name, good sir, and I feel as though you have earned mine. I am Prince Daggon, what is your name?”

“I am Sir Gregor de la Mariée, Banner Bearer of the Lord Nicodemus, and his ward.” Gregor put forth his hand, and the elf considered it a moment before seizing it in a surprisingly strong grip for such a lithe frame. The two considered each other before Daggon broke the grip and strode back to his dragon and took to the skies.

That night was filled with terrible draconic roars followed by bloody screams and meaningful silence. The knights did not rest as well as they should have knowing the red vengeance of a member of a dying race watched over them.

* * * * *

Nicodemus watched as the procession trailed in, a ragtag mix of dwarves and elves shambling on exhausted feet and covered in dirt and grime. It was a stark contrast to the regularly crisp proceedings normally displayed by the elves, or the dour precision exuded by the dwarfs. A pair of elves carrying a chest between them and an elven mage with a maimed hand and a simple blade with two keys on its scabbard approached the Bretonnian Lord. Her once flowing hair was matted with blood and dirt and a worn ferocity reflected in her eyes.

“My lord Daggon wishes you to know, Sir Nicodemus, that he is alive and well, as is your ward and his men. My prince is safeguarding them as they march through the now chaos infested hills back to here and he says that they should arrive in a small matter of days.” Nicodemus nodded appreciatively and smiled, relieved to know that Gregor was alive, he had feared the worst when he had noticed their noticeable absence in the procession.

“What of the Blade? Did you succeed in your endeavor?” Nicodemus’s voice was tense as he responded. The elven mage simply stepped back and opened the chest borne by the two soldiers behind her. Inside the an ornate blade in an equally ornate scabbard rested on a cushion of velvet, deep shadows obscuring it against the crimson pillow upon which it rested. A dark foreboding seized upon the aging knight and he heard whispers of his own doom mocking him upon a sudden dry breeze that defied its orientation coming in from over the wet waves of the ocean.

“My Lord had us take this chest from our own personal accoutrements, it is designed to mask the magics of some very powerful artifacts. It will mask the presence of the Blade for now, but I would ask that we find a place to store it where it might be under constant watch. Only myself, my Lord Daggon, and our mage Allred can open this chest through magic enchantments that recognize our living flesh. Later this evening, we can have Allred add you to that enchantment, as well, if you have time.” Nicodemus nodded and the mage closed the lid before motioning for the bearers to continue on.
“There is a large wizard’s tower near the docks of the city, we have set up a cycling guard there with Grimme himself overseeing its watch. Take the chest there and we will begin research for what to do with the Blade as soon as possible.” The aged knight pointed in the general direction and the elves marched off in their responsibilities. As Nicodemus watched them go, he noticed that a light dusting of snow was beginning to fall from the sky.

   
Made in us
Crazy Marauder Horseman







Chapter 10: The Siege of Mousillon

The snow did not stop for days, by the end of this momentous blizzard white powder lay several feet deep outside of the walls and had transformed the dirty streets of Mousillon into a filthy river of disease. The Crimson Phlegm had come to the citizens as they wallowed in the mud encrusted houses and choked the local hospices with refugees from the mountains. One out of every 3 survivors of Soude would die in the coming weeks from a mixture of malnutrition and poor living conditions. But there was nowhere else for these people to go, it was ironic that common disease had claimed more lives than the blades of the barbarian invaders that had driven them from their homes. Among the regular citizens of the city of Mousillon the death rate was much lower, but it hit hardest amongst the children. The mortality rate among adults ran around one in ten, but children suffered much worse as their bodies lacked the necessary strength to fight off such a virulent disease as the Crimson Phlegm and almost a quarter of the youth population perished that winter, and almost half of those that did survive were cursed with breathing problems the rest of their lives.
Yet this was only the beginning of their troubles.
After the first month had passed and the body count began to rise to astronomical proportions, Nicodemus scrambled to find solutions that did not seem to exist. A rare bright morning found him walking the battlements of the city, staring out across the now barren landscape that lay beyond the city walls. The Felblade was yet to be destroyed. All attempts to use magic to dissolve the blade had failed. The elven high magic had yielded nothing, nor had the runic hammers and forges of the dwarven runesmiths. Lady Lucas had recovered from her episode at the necropolis, but her magic was nothing in comparison and her major contributions had been spent in the library here at Mousillon researching different methods that might aid the others in destroying the vile thing. A travelling Sigmarite priest had perished when his pious prayers had failed to protect him as he struck at the blade with his blessed hammer and watched as the ensuing reverberations had shattered the hammer and thrown the priest into the wall so hard it had jellied his insides and burst his head open like a gory melon. Nicodemus rubbed his red eyes with his rough hands and sighed, leaning against the stone parapet in front of him he stared out across the forlorn landscape, his soul finding some comfort in the similarities he shared with nature at that moment. This was how Gregor found his lord, leaning against the wall for support that was only physical and staring across the horizon for help that wouldn’t come.
Gregor coughed quietly, bringing Nicodemus’s head around to look at his ward.
“What news would bring you up here?” The old knight questioned as he pushed his tired muscles and knuckled his lower back in an effort to relax the tension that had settled deep into his bones.
“Not the good kind, I fear.” Gregor also came and positioned himself against the wall to stare out at the view outside the gates. “Do you remember that storm that rolled in about four weeks ago?”
“The one that brought all this damnable snow? How could I forget? It nearly destroyed the pauper’s quarter with the gale that came in off the sea and the lightning spooked our horses so bad I was afraid that some were going to die of fright.”
“Evidently that storm was the death throes of the elven islands of Ulthuan. They just received the news last night that their homeland is gone.” Gregor let that news hang in the air for a moment, allowing the ramifications to sink in.
“How did they find out?” Nicodemus asked after several minutes had passed.
“Their new Phoenix King has sent out envoys to gather in the various troops that were absent from the islands when everything came crashing down. Evidently they have orders to be gathered back in and are to go to the forest of Athel Loren immediately. Oh, but I misspoke, this new king styles himself as the Eternity King, evidently the title of Phoenix is dead with the falling of their eternal flames back on their homeland. I don’t exactly understand what that means but it was evidently meaningful to our elven allies as they are even now arguing over what to do.” Gregor shrugged and began drawing in the snow that lay thick atop the parapet in front of him.
“Surely this new Eternity King can understand our dire need for his troops here and will be willing to spare them a little while longer?” Nicodemus turned to face his ward with his eyebrows raised in question.
“Apparently this new king is very demanding that they return quickly for some reason, something about their race being nearly destroyed must’ve put the fear of the Lady into them and they want to secure their own holdings.” Gregor pushed himself off the wall and stood to walk away. “The elves were discussing it in the war room when I left to bring you the news, thought you might want to talk to them and see if you could talk some sense into them.”
* * * * *
Nicodemus found himself outside of the same door that he had paused months before when he had first been introduced to the elves and had been forced to settle a dispute between them and the dwarves. The treacherous Lianthur had been present for that confrontation as well. Nicodemus shuddered when he thought of the lost lives that Lianthur’s betrayal had cost them. Ever since then, Prince Daggon had grown far more quiet, his mood more somber. The elf had lost soldiers before that day, but never had he been betrayed in such a deep and invasive manner. The wound that had been scratched into his soul would be a difficult one to heal, and it would take some tender care lest it fester and rot his soul. Nicodemus sighed a heavy sigh, his brow creased when he thought of his friend in this state, and his eyes grew heavy. With a reluctant shove, Nicodemus forced the door open and watched as all the eyes in the room swivelled to look at him, this human intruder on elven matters.
“I’m sure your ward has told you of the news we received,” Daggon spoke plainly and directly.
“He did, I have come to plead if that need be the case.” Nicodemus stepped inside and closed the door behind him.
“Your pleas may fall on deaf ears, I fear.” Daggon half sneered, his weary lips too tired to make an honest effort of it.
“My prince, our King has ordered us to return,” Allred spoke in a tired tone that suggested that this wasn’t the first time he had used this line.
“What king is this Malekith to us!? He has slaughtered our brothers and sisters on the very shores of our lost home!” Daggon’s weariness seemed to fade from him as if cut by a knife steeled with his very contempt. “And for what!? So that he could claim a throne that he tells us was his birthright from the beginning? He tells us that our traditions are lies!? How is he any better than Lianthur!?”
“My lord, you mustn’t say such things” the mage Lynn stood to Daggon’s right. The prince turned to face her.
“Why shouldn’t I? This self-styled Eternity King destroyed our home. It’s because of him that we are stuck in this festering pit of disease for the rest of our long years. We will never see our shores again, Lynn. Think on that! Give me one good reason why I should give my allegiance to this putrid son of a whore!” Daggon’s teeth were bared in the grim parody of a predator. The entirety of the elven congregation gasped at this break in decorum. Xiomar came up behind Daggon and laid a hand on his shoulder.
“Brother, listen to yourself. Do you hear who you sound like?” Daggon rounded on his brother, his hot stare seeking to bore a hole through his sibling’s skull. But Xiomar met his brother’s gaze with an equally fierce one of his own. The two family members fought a battle of wills at that moment, and the quiet concentration of the combined congregation urged their favored participant on. In the end, surprisingly, it was Daggon who stepped back with a sigh that carried with it the weight of the past several weeks.
“We do not owe Malekith anything,” Xiomar spoke softly “If anything the reverse is true, but Daggon,” the prince turned at the sound of his name “, he may be the last hope for our race. If all other remnants of our already diminished people are rallying under his banner, then wouldn’t our best hope of survival lay there with our brothers and sisters? Is your anger so great that it would see your fellow kin die rather than work together with them? Even if they have wronged you in so great a manner as this?” In response to this, Daggon slumped down into a nearby chair, placing his elbows on the long campaign table in front of him and rested his face in his hands. His shoulders broke and after a long moment, he nodded. The wordless communication passed between the two siblings and Xiomar spoke to the rest of the council.
“It is decided then, we will leave for Athel Loren on the morrow. Prepare the troops for the march. Athel Loren is a week’s journey from here if we make good time.” A collective sigh seemed to pass through the elves that were present and the tense mood relaxed in a manner so tangible you could almost hear the wood in the walls cracking as it settled back from the prolonged stress.
“And what of the Blade?” Nicodemus asked and instantly the mood reverted to its former state.
“We have helped you to reclaim the artifact and have tried our best to help you destroy it, surely that is enough?” the mage Lynn’s voice rippled like a frozen pond on a winter day.
“No, it is not.” Nicodemus’s voice matched the temperature of Lynn’s and the fierceness of his gaze caused her reply to catch in her throat. “You have the strongest mages I know, you already know that Lady Lucas cannot destroy the weapon, and you would leave such a thing in our care when you know that we have struggled to keep the enemy that lies at our doorstep from kicking in the gate and having their way with us? If not for you, we would have perished long ago, yet you would abandon us to our own devices and hope for the best?”
“Your enemy is scattered, we have not seen even a hint of enemy activity in over a month now, not since we reclaimed the Blade itself.” Xiomar replied, his voice carefully staying neutral.
“If you think they are scattered than you are fooling yourself.” Nicodemus struggled not to spit his words at the elves, “if you think for one instant that they do not have spies watching our gates at this very moment, waiting for something to happen that will give them the edge they desire, than you are an even greater fool.” Xiomar’s face soured at this accusation and he opened his mouth to reply before his brother cut him off.
“Lord Nicodemus is right,” Daggon stated without raising his head “, we cannot simply leave the Blade undefended.”
“But you said…” Lynn began
“I know what I said!” Daggon’s voice thundered around the room, even Nicodemus winced under its weight, the prince then continued in a much wearier voice. “We will go to Athel Loren, but we will take the Blade with us,”
Immediately the room exploded.
“You cannot be serious my prince!”
“You would endanger our people by bringing this abomination to their door?!”
“If you think I will allow you to leave with the Blade, you are mistaken.”
“QUIET!” Daggon’s voice was again like thunder and its crash echoed against the walls. “I will brook no further argument in this matter! The Blade is a threat to every living creature in this world, in Archaon’s hands it could set the world ablaze and destroy every living thing in it. The resources we have here are insufficient to destroy this threat, and it cannot be stored here indefinitely, there are not enough troops to safeguard it. Eventually the Chaos worshippers will realize that it is here and will come for it. If we are to remove the greater portion of the defenses upon which this campaign has relied, then we must ensure that all of the sacrifices that have been made in pursuit of that thing have not been in vain.” Daggon’s steel tongue continued to lash the combined members in the room. “Furthermore, in Athel Loren there will undoubtedly be more mages and wiser minds than ours that may be able to succeed where we have failed in destroying the Blade, and so therefore the blade is coming with us to Athel Loren.” With these final words a stinging silence reigned in the war room. Daggon rose slowly and walked to the exit. Before opening the door, Daggon turned his head and spoke over his shoulder.
“As my brother said, ready the troops, we march on the morrow.” Without waiting for a response the elven prince strode out of the room, leaving behind him a sea of worried faces.
* * * * *
Shelia Ironfist sighed heavily as she looked across the new arrivals that had recently come from the nearby hold of Zhufbar. The fall of Karak Azul and the destruction visited on the Slayer keep and Karaz a Karak had shaken the other holds and several of the more politically minded dwarven nobles had taken Shelia’s request for aid as an excuse to send her their refugees under the guise of reinforcements. There were far more beardlings than warriors among each lot that arrived at the gates of Mousillon. These waves of “reinforcements” were being sent in order to remove them from harm. Nearly every dwarven hold was under siege, and the relative peace that the human kingdom where Shelia was stationed had given the false impression that it might be safer here than in the mountain holds. Shelia’s eye twitched as she thought about the nerve of these politicians, the End Times must truly be upon them if a dwarf thought a shoddy human castle was safer than the holds of their ancestors which had endured for centuries. Thankfully the wave of refugees was limited to small family groups whose patriarchs lacked the iron in their blood to keep them where they belonged. However, some of these units came accompanied with warrior bodyguards and Shelia was quick to press them into service in her ranks. The usual complaints as to the poor quality of the donkey spit that the humans called ale was the majority of the problems that Shelia faced, as the dwarven constitutions were stronger than that of the humans and the majority of her race was able to fight off the sickness that plagued the rest of the population in Mousillon.
The foreman of the miners that remained with the troops approached and Shelia took that as an excuse to step away from her new “recruits”.
“What news?” Her husky voice always caused the foreman to pause and occasionally brought a glazed look over his eyes. Shelia rolled her eyes and brought her fist down on the foreman’s helmet. He coughed and shook his head, his beard hiding a foolish grin. Shelia repeated herself: “What news?”
“Ah, yes yer lovliness, err I mean ladyship, errr… sir. It seems the lads ha’ been gettin’ feedback from the little bit o’ stone we can find in tha area.” The foreman harrumphed and began settling into the normal sense of business for which he was normally known.
“What kind a’ feedback?” Shelia questioned.
“Weel, we’re no quite sure, Some o’ the lads say it soonds like some kinda drill. But that dinnae make sense. What good would a drill do in marshlands like this? But agin, we cannae fin’ a good place ta listen in this area, so it may be that the lads are jus’ hearin’ tha ocean or summit like it.”
Shelia frowned. “Keep me appraised a’ the soond, I wanta know the moment ya can be sure if’n it be the ocean or a drill, ya ken?”
“I figured ya would wan’ that. I’ll have my apprentice give ya hoorly updates and we’ll keep oor ears to the ground for ye til’ we know fer sure.” The Foreman nodded.
“Thank’ee foreman,” Sheila gave one of her rare smiles, which to a human would’ve appeared to be a grimace, but the Foreman smiled in his stony way and backed up to return to his station. Sighing heavily, Sheila dutifully returned to hers.
“Yes, I knoo the ‘ale’ the humans serve tastes like rat piss, we all ‘ave oor burdens ta bear, ya hear?”
* * * * *
Gregor was not surprised to find Nicodemus in the same spot where he had last seen him on the ramparts. The old knight was as predictable as ever in his habits, Gregor liked that, it gave his world a sense of solidarity and reliability that he could always know where to look if he needed to speak with his knight. Nicodemus turned when the crackle of some frozen dirt betrayed the younger knight on the cold stone of the walkway. Nicodemus smiled and motioned for his ward to join him. The two soldiers gazed out over the frozen grounds. Morning was less than an hour away, but the stars still glittered coldly on a black velvet background. The frigid air misted in vapors about the two figures like ghosts clinging to the warmth that their living blood could offer.
“I convinced Daggon to let me ride with him to Athel Loren” Nicodemus spoke after the silence had stretched on for several minutes, “I’ll take my retinue with me and ride with the elves until I know for a fact that the Blade has been destroyed, or die trying anyways.” Gregor smiled at the idea of the aged knight arguing with the elves about how he should be allowed to stay with the blade even after it had passed over the border into the enchanted forest. But the smile was short lived.
“You think that Aantar’s forces are still out there.” The Banner Bearer’s words were not a question.
“His crooked advisor Gethus is still alive, and so long as that putrid sorcerer draws breath, I doubt that Aantar’s forces will disperse.”
“And you think that they are going to try and take the blade while you travel to Athel Loren?”
“It makes the most sense, doesn’t it? How much easier is it to assault a travelling column rather than lay siege to a walled city with a fortress beyond that? No, they’re waiting for us to try something like this, but Daggon has a good point. We can’t destroy the Blade here, not with the resources we have. Our best chance lies with the elves, and they won’t come here, so we must take the Blade to them.” Nicodemus exhaled slowly, allowing the vapors to play in the frozen air before dissipating into the inky blackness of the pre-dawn.
“I don’t disagree with you, but then why don’t you take both the Younglings and the Phoenix Regiment with you?” Gregor’s voice hinted only slightly at the feelings of betrayal for being left behind. Nicodemus laughed at this.
“I’m sure the elves would take kindly to us marching up to the borders of their new home with a literal army of knights at my back, nothing says ‘peaceful intent’ like a forest of lances bristling at your back. No, it’s better that my retinue goes alone. Besides, if the northmen do come back and want to attack the city, it would be better that we have you and the other knights here to guard the people. We cannot simply rely on the dwarves to do our fighting for us, can we?”
“I suppose not.” Gregor looked away to hide his creased brow.
“There is one thing, however, that I do need to tell you before we go.” Nicodemus placed a hand on Gregor’s shoulder, the young knight looked up at his liege. “I have named you my heir and the successor of my command should the worst occur and I do not return.”
“Me? Surely there is a better choice, Sir Osric, or Sir Guy, they would be better choices than I.” Gregor attempted to step back and away from the hand on his shoulder, but Nicodemus held him firmly in place.
“I have prepared you to take this role on almost ever since I first knew you. I’m sorry that I didn’t take you with me to the badlands when I returned from my Quest, but I needed you here in Bretonnia to watch over my lands and learn how to lead. From what I’ve heard and seen of you, that time was not misspent. You are an exemplary knight, and your men respect you. Grimme cannot take this responsibility. Despite his qualities the men do not respect him because of his birth. Osric and Guy are fine knights, but their leadership is in battle, and I need someone who can do more than that. You are the only real choice that remains.”
“But I have difficulty contemplating the responsibility of leading a single column of knights! The collective weight of their fates on my shoulders weighs me down almost to inactivity. I cannot lead an entire city of people!” Gregor still shook his head and his words were strained, pleading.
“Yet, still you lead those knights, just as you will lead the people of this city. You will succeed. I have found that the weight of lives is proportionate to whatever your calling in life may be. Having had the fate of the world on my shoulders a time or two, I can tell you this: that the weight of a life is the same whether it be one life, or a multitude. You have shown the proper reverence for the lives that you have been given leadership over, and that speaks highly of the decisions you will be forced to make in the future.” Nicodemus finally released his ward and stepped back. “Will you accept this burden?”
The minutes stretched out for an eternity as Gregor considered his response. The air in his lungs was frozen for a reason completely unrelated to the temperature brought on by the season. Finally, Gregor’s eyes focused on his mentor and he held out his hand.
“Only because it is you that asks it of me do I accept.”
Nicodemus smiled and took his ward’s hand. “I am glad you do, because I wasn’t really giving you a choice.” The old knight laughed at the shocked expression on Gregor’s face. “Come! Let us go and see if the kitchens have anything for us this early in the morn…” Nicodemus’s jovial smile faltered on his face and his words trailed off. Gregor followed his gaze out over the lands and cursed at what he saw there.
A lone figure sat astride a horse, a large scythe looming over his head. In the wan light of the newly rising sun, one could just make out the green hue of the lone horseman’s armor. The breeze shifted to carry a scent of rotting flesh and acidic blood over the ramparts. The rider was just out of bowshot range, but just as if he could sense that Nicodemus was watching him he raised his scythe and circled it about his head in what looked like a signal. The two knights did not have to wait long to see what for. Within moments fur-clad barbarians crested the horizon and marched forward, a literal sea of filthy war mongers, each one had broken silence and were in the midst of howling war-prayers to their gods or whooping cries of bloodlust. Gregor’s face paled as he realized that there was another body being led from the north as well as this western front, and a quick glance to the south revealed that another contingency was marching in to lock them in place.
“We have waited too long” Nicodemus whispered, he looked over at Gregor, “go and find Daggon and Captain Sheila and bring them here, quickly!”
* * * * *
Daggon looked out over the tide of Chaos worshippers standing outside the gates, their voices clashing against one another in a discordant chant of death, calling for the blood of those inside the city walls. Hastily erected siege towers sprouted out of the thronging masses like twisted rocks out of a filthy ocean. Here and there, ravenous monsters slavered and howled their frustration to the skies with mouths that had no business existing in this reality. The citizens of the city quailed in their homes and covered their heads with their blankets in their beds, hoping the nightmare would end soon and they would be allowed to wake up and go about their lives as normal. Looking at the foe arrayed against them, Daggon knew that there would be no wishing away such a force in so easy a fashion.
“You cannot take the Blade now,” Nicodemus’s voice cut through Daggon’s thoughts and the elf turned to acknowledge him. “There are too many of them, if you were to try and take it, we might as well wrap it up for them, too and place it on a silver platter.”
“You are right, the Blade will have to stay here for now,” Daggon acknowledged.
“But yor still goin’, I take it?” Sheila was leaning against the wall, her rough features unblinking as she took stock of the scene.
“What else can we do? Our troops cannot hold this city against that number, and no one is even aware of our predicament here, no one is coming to help us unless we can get help and bring it here.” Daggon’s voice lacked the heat it had held in the war room, now there was only a weary resignation.
“I know that ifn’ ya lead yer troops oot there now, ye’ll be slaughtered afore ye can make it ten steps.” The dwarf replied without looking up at the elf.
“Well, then what would you have us do? If we stay we only prolong the inevitable. That army is here for the Blade, and they will crash against these walls until they break them, and it may not take them much longer than if we were to ride out and meet them.” Daggon came and stood next to the dwarf and surveyed the army once more.
“We need to be smart about this, because you are right, Prince Daggon, we cannot win against an army this large, no matter how strong this fortress is. We do not have the manpower to fight against such odds.” Nicodemus joined the other two commanders.
“They will be for attackin’ us soon, that might be yer best chance.” Sheila spoke in slow and ponderous tones. “Ya see o’er there? By the southern gate? There be far fewer a’ the Nor’men there. Tis’ almost as if they be there only ta make sure that no’one try ta get pass them.” Nicodemus looked at where the dwarf pointed and a sudden light came into his face.
“I think you’re right, captain. If I know these barbarians, they will try to place the assault where they can do the most damage. The Western Gate has the widest entrance, and that gate is also the most direct route to the fortress, which is where they will more than likely assume the Blade is being held. The main attack will come there, and when it does, the side gates will likely be less guarded as the majority of the northmen will be trying to get into battle and will not want to be relegated to guard duty. That’s our opportunity.” Daggon nodded but he looked at Nicodemus with eyes that reflected concern.
“Are you sure? This is a large risk to take on such a slim chance.”
“It’s the best we have, and we must act quickly, the more time we sit here waiting and debating the options the fewer we’ll have and the less time to reach Athel Loren and bring back the needed reinforcements to save these people.” Nicodemus returned the worried look, but his words held the needed reasoning to reassure the prince.
“You do realize that Malekith may refuse to send aid?”
“There is nothing for it, we must make the attempt. What other choice is there?” Nicodemus shook his head and whispered what seemed to be a prayer under his breath.
“Very well. It will be easier to slip a small force past the blockade, I will leave the rest of my troops here to help fortify your own soldiers, Sir Nicodemus.” Daggon moved to make the preparations, Nicodemus stopped him.
“I am still coming with you.” The prince made as if to argue with the aged knight, but the look on Nicodemus’s face brooked no disagreement. Eventually Prince Daggon simply nodded and walked a few more paces before stopping and turning to face the Bretonnian lord.
“My friend, I feel that I have mistreated you these past few weeks. I apologize for this, my heart has been heavy and my words and deeds not my own I feel. You have been a dear friend through all this and I have not been one in return, it seems.” Daggon’s face softened from the chiseled stone that had been ever present these past several weeks. “I don’t know why I feel the need to tell you this now, perhaps it is because we are preparing for a suicide run, but I felt that it needed to be said.”
“I accept the apology, my friend, and am glad for it. Do not be troubled by this any further.” Nicodemus smiled and Daggon nodded before striding away. “As for you, friend dwarf, thank you for staying your troops here with us, it means everything that you are willing to also stand by our side and defend our people.”
“My kin did owe ye a great debt, Nicodemus, and we dwarves do keep oor word.” Sheila gave another of her grimace smiles to Nicodemus, who returned the gesture, albeit with less grimacing.
* * * * *
The attack was not long in coming. Nicodemus had barely gathered together his cohort and settled into the saddle when a long, loud trumpet blast rang out across the frosty morning and the sounds of a thousand throats crying out for bloodshed in disharmonious unison rent the air. At a nod from Nicodemus, the southern gate opened with a creak that was drowned out by the sounds of the dying that were freshly risen from outside the walls. With the gate open, the barbarians forced to guard it from the outside were left shocked as the first ranks of elves smashed into them, throwing their torn corpses onto the ground. Nicodemus found himself swept up in the rush of the moment and charged forward with the rest of the soldiers around him.
The initial charge from the elves was sufficient to scatter the first numbers of the the marauders that had been standing guard. The northmen scampered back, screaming as elven lances took them in the backs and drove them back to the ground. From the ramparts, companies of archers loosed arrows down on the massed ranks of barbarians, cutting a bloody swathe through the already panicking Chaos worshippers. Nicodemus’s blade flashed out and a crimson trail followed his sword’s path. His blade rose and fell time and time again, each time spreading a gory pigment down his blade and painting his horse’s flanks. Daggon’s dragon roared before releasing a rolling cloud of fire through the ranks of massed northmen, adding the stench of cooking meat to the metallic taste of blood already prevalent in the air. Caught by the unexpected ferocity of this charge, the northmen scrambled back and fled, but something troubled Nicodemus and he slowed his retinue to a trot as the sense of foreboding became something akin to a sixth sense. Elven warriors poured around the body of Grail knights and pressed the advantage against the fleeing marauders, it was then that Nicodemus noticed a dark shadow hanging over the backs of the elves in front of his own unit. Nicodemus reined in sharply as realization dawned on him and a blue blur of motion struck the unit of warriors in front of him. A bloody mess sent broken elven bodies flying and in an instant the impetus of the elven charge was halted as the column turned to face this new threat. After dispatching the warriors around him, the azure skinned demon prince raised itself up to stare straight at Nicodemus. The creature wore a golden mask over its face and twin rivulets of blood ran from the eye holes, its wings spread out behind it in a mockery of the angels.
“Hello, old friend” It spoke in a voice that was a cacophony of contradictions, a scratching yet smooth, screaming whisper. Nicodemus’s mind reeled as he realized that he recognized the voice: a booming baritone portion of the voice that tore at his memories.
“Aantar…”
“I am so sorry,” the demon prince flexed his wings and sped into the sky to rejoin the newly formed battlelines of the Chaos worshippers across the field, barring Daggon and Nicodemus’s way to Athel Loren. Nicodemus stared numbly across the way as the elven commander organized his own troops into order and prepared to break through the blockade. They were heavily outnumbered. but they didn’t need to defeat their enemy to win, they only needed to break through with enough soldiers to make it to Athel Loren and deliver their plea for aid. Daggon quietly began to pray that they would have enough troops to accomplish that.
* * * * *
Gregor fought beside the dwarven captain Sheila, the first wave of marauders had managed to push a single siege tower against the walls of the outer city. The inhabitants of the tower had flowed out, slaughtering the peasant bowmen that had manned the walls in an instant. Gregor’s new blade flashed out, anywhere that it touched a servant of the dark gods, the recipient of the blow fell back clutching his chest where bloody pus was already forming great blisters upon his chest. Gregor lifted the standard of Nicodemus high so as to inspire his knights to fight harder. The overwhelming weight of the Chaos worshippers was naught before the combined martial pride of Bretonnian knights and dwarven steel. The northmen were pushed back with surprising ease, many fleeing before the combined might of the two races. At a nod from Sheila, several contraptions were brought forward by her engineers and thrown on the single siege tower that had made it to the walls. In a matter of seconds the tower was a funeral pyre for those unfortunate to still be inside, within a matter of minutes the blaze had burnt the siege engine down to a smoldering pile of ash that darkened the snow at the base of the walls. Gregor turned and nodded his appreciation at Sheila, who returned the nod.
“Cap’n! Cap’n Sheila!” The dwarven commander turned to face the beardling who appeared breathlessly out of the ranks. She recognized him quickly enough, it was the Foreman’s apprentice.
“Wha’ news ya bring me?” She asked
“The Foreman asked me ta get ta ye as quick as I could. The soun’ was a drill, we kno’ tha’ now ‘cause a the fact that the skaven ha’ just surfaced over in the warehouse district. They be trying ta burn the food stuffs tha’ be stored there! The Foreman asks that ya come quick. So far we been able ta hold em’ back, but I dinnae ken how long they’ll be able to hold out!” The wheezing dwarf spoke in puffed outbursts. Sheila looked at Gregor who nodded.
“Go! We won’t be able to hold out long if the city is sick and starving.” Gregor turned back and bellowed into the freezing air. A mixed volley of elven and human arrows thrummed from their bowstrings and rained down among the sea of targets below, and despite the screams and gurgling cries as the arrows found their marks, it did not seem to have any effect. Sheila quickly barked a few orders for some of her troops to gather themselves and follow after her.

   
Made in us
Crazy Marauder Horseman







Chapter 11: A Sickness in the Forest

Daggon raised his lance high and signalled the charge, the milling hordes of Chaos surged forward in response to the elves as they pressed their mounts into laborious service. The first to meet the headlong charge was the Phoenix on the left flank, it swept down on a monstrous beast with writhing tentacles bursting forth out of an impossible maw and swirling energies boiling on its back. The great Flamespyre brought its talons to bare and dug their sharp points into the beast’s hardened hide. The monster bellowed but lashed out with its own tentacles to ensnare the great avion’s extended feet and the creature screamed as sucking teeth burrowed into its exposed skin.

To the rear of the warrior host the sounds of demonic artillery spoke with the voice of thunder. Screaming ammunition sped across the field to land dead center in the middle of a regiment of Silver Helms that were following close behind Nicodemus’s guard of Grail Knights. The hellish ordnance exploded directly after crushing one of the elven knights flat with a wet thud. Bone fragments and devilish energy spiraled out from the blast and cut arteries and boiled blood in his surrounding brothers in arms, killing almost half the unit in one moment of gore. The captain of the unit desperately called out to his troops as dark whispers and tortured screams echoed up from the devastating impact, steeling the Silver Helms’ resolve and pulling them back into their ranks to continue their charge across the battlefield.

One of the demonic cannons bellowed out in rage and devoured two of its dwarven handlers before ripping free and charging across the battlefield towards the Phoenix that was still locked with the great mutated beast, the cannon formed a horrendous mouth at the end of its barrel and bit deep into the flaming creatures side, causing a cry of pain. Still the great flamespyre fought on against the mutalith creature in front of it, managing to pull a tentacle out of the creature’s slimy mouth and swoop up to gain a better vantage point.

Several marauder horsemen charged across the battlefield, accompanied by several packs of hunting hounds to try and meet against Nicodemus’s unit as it had been isolated by the loss of the majority of the Silver Helms behind it. Alred had been running along behind cursed as he saw the oncoming foe and conjured up an arcane fulcrum to appear beneath his feet, towering energies curled about the wizard’s fingers and ripped into the soil beneath him. An earthen tower rose up out of the roots of the ground and pushed him heavenwards. Utilizing the arcane amplification of his conjuration, Allred reached out and warped the very space around Nicodemus’s unit of knights. There was the sound of a whip cracking and a bright flash of light. When the light dimmed, Nicodemus and his knights found themselves on the edge of the battlefield facing away from the combat and behind the enemy lines. Aantar saw this sudden change in his old foe’s fortunes and bellowed his rage to the heavens before sweeping down behind them.

Somewhat baffled by what had just happened, Nicodemus and his knights paused for a moment. In that moment Aantar landed behind them and folded his devilish angel wings behind him. Nicodemus began to urge his men on, but it was too late. Aantar chanted beneath his golden mask and raised his hands to point at the Bretonnian warriors, golden energies encompassed the demon’s outstretched hand and coalesced into a single burning point which sped towards the small unit of knights. As the magical energy touched their back flanks, Sir Gelwyn and Sir Josen both reared up as the energies encased them and turned both mounts and knights turned to solid gold. In shameful terror, the unit of knights fled off the battlefield as the images of their comrades’ tortured faces as they had changed from flesh to metal was unbearable. nicodemus gritted his teeth and followed suite, knowing that this was their objective all along to push through the Chaos army and get to Athel Loren. Even so, the thought of fleeing before Aantar and especially after having two of his close friends murdered in such an awful way, burned in Nicodemus’s mind as he rode away from the combat. Vengeance would have to wait.

Across the battlefield, the marauder horsemen clashed against the remaining Silver Helms and such was the savagery of the drugged marauders that they were able to drag an additional two elves to the ground and laughed while their horses ground them into the dirt with their sharpened hooves. The mounted elves were still reeling from the blow dealt them by the artillery and were unable to bring anything to bear but a poorly timed flailing that managed to kill one of the more careless marauders. The Helms held against this new onslaught and the fighting commenced anew. On the opposite flank the Phoenix swept down to attack the mutalith beast again, and managed to sink its sharp beak deep into the creatures exposed flank, but that was to be the creature’s undoing. Again the mutalith’s sinewy tentacles reached up and wrapped around the avion’s neck and with a mighty heave threw the creature down into the dirt. The Phoenix flailed uselessly as the demon that possessed the hellcannon reached down and spewed a torrent of demonic energy straight into the creature’s face. The skin melted off the flaming bird’s body and poured away as if made of melted wax. In moments all that was left was a tiny, sputtering flame, and even that sputtered and died before the evil monsters had reached their next targets.

Daggon saw Nicodemus’s flight from the battle and Aantar’s cruel blow that led to his unit breaking. Determined to stop Aantar from pursuing his human friend, the elven prince spurred his dragon mount to land down by the demon prince. Aantar began shouting taunts at the fallen creature in an attempt to draw him off course. The ruse worked and Aantar turned his attention on this new tempting target. Daggon smiled and turned to flee the battlefield himself, but even as he did so, he found the snarling maw of a different hellcannon snapping at him. A frostheart phoenix, brother to the one that had fallen to a similar creature that now threatened the prince, swept down and dug its frozen claws into the rear of the cannon’s exposed fleshy barrel. The monster screamed but kept its attention on the prince, Aantar glided lazily over to join in the fray. Even as he did so, a small unit of Ellyrian Reavers had broken through the pack and charged the demon prince in a desperate effort to save their commander from the demon’s blade. In a contemptuous sweep of his sword, Aantar killed all but one of the Reavers, whom he promptly raised a clawed foot and crushed beneath his terrible weight.

Daggon gave a desperate thrust of his blessed lance and penetrated through the maw of the hellcannon, the point burst out of the other side of the creature and it screamed in protest before shattering into a thousand pieces. The remaining Chaos dwarf crew were quickly devoured by Archaiadynami. Seizing the oopportunity, Aantar leapt to strike the elven prince’s head from his shoulders. Daggon made a desperate parry and a quick riposte that should have pierced the demon’s chest, but it was as if time itself warped and the blade instead flew harmlessly to the side. Aantar’s bloody tears splattered on Archaiadynami’s scales and hissed there as if water spilt on a guttering fire.

“You are no match for the inexorable hand of fate, elf. I have seen the end, and you are not part of it!” Aantar snarled from behind his golden mask, throwing another blow meant to cleave Daggon on in half. Archaiadynami’s claws came up and blocked the demonic blade, but the cursed weapon bit deeper than it should have been able to with the glittering scales to protect him. Daggon trembled despite himself as again and again he and his dragon feinted and struck at the demon prince, and each time the blade or claw would fall harmlessly to one side, or whistle through the air where the demon had stood only a moment before. Aantar gave a cold laugh and lunged with supernatural speed, Daggon sensed more than felt as the blade made quick contact against his sides. Once, twice the demon scored across the elf’s ribs. At first Daggon felt nothing, then a searing pain coursed out from where the wounds lay open and raw, as if his armor had been nothing to the demonic blade. Daggon placed his hand over where he had been hit and his hand came away sticky and wet with his own blood. Breathing became difficult as he realized that he had probably broken a few ribs. Archaiadynami roared his defiance and struck at Aantar, who rose swiftly into the air to avoid the blow. Taking the opportunity, Daggon spurred his mount to take to the air as well. The Frostheart flew to its master’s side and made a sweeping feint at the demon prince. Aantar easily dodged the blow, but it was enough of a distraction for Daggon. He turned Archaiadynami and together they fled away from the battlefield, leaving Aantar to deal with the Frost heart for a few more minutes as they sped away into the north. The frozen avion, seeing that its lord had fled, broke away from the demon and fled itself. Aantar watched it go before settling down on the ground.

Alred noticed with relief that his lord had escaped and quickly cast a similar spell to that which he had cast on Nicodemus’s knights on the Silver Helms, who had only just finished off the marauder horsemen and were now staring down a slavering crew of demonic blood letters. In a sudden flash of light, the Helms found themselves behind the enemy lines with a clean line of escape before them. Using the remainder of his magic reserves, Alred himself took to the air and flew over the massed ranks of the enemy. Landing far behind the enemy forces, Alred quickly concealed himself with a magical aura and fled off into the distance towards Athel Loren.

Aantar settled back to the earth and watched as the shadows faded into the distance. If it weren’t for the mask his face would be wearing a smile. Making a high pitched whistling noise, Aantar watched as a lone figure on a hill detached from the shadows and came galloping towards him. Aantar waited patiently until the figure came and stood beside him.

“Take a detachment of troops and follow them,” Aantar’s voice held a smug note that was not lost on the mounted sorcerer sitting next to him. “Do not engage them, just follow them, I know where they are going and we have friends there waiting for them already, you are to assist these friends, nothing more.”

“Yes, my lord” Gethus’s scarred throat uttered a hoarse whisper in reply.

* * * * *

Xiomar looked out over the burning husks of the buildings where the Skaven had made their subterranean assault. Several granaries had been burnt to the ground, but thankfully the majority had been saved. The skaven themselves had fled when Akkar the Anointed had cut down their warlord before them all, and then as they had fled the swordmasters accompanying Akkar slew their banner bearer. One of the fell grey seers had also been killed in the melee and the ground was littered with the brown fur pelts of the dead and dying ratmen. The dwarf commander Sheila had arrived just as the fighting had finished, having been distracted by fighting in other quarters of the city where the skaven had suffered similar ignominious defeats, she had arrived too late with her dwarf reinforcements to be of any help in the current battle. However, the assault on the walls continued unabated and so there was more than enough work to go around. The dwarfs managed to seal up the tunnels for the most part, but patrols would have to be vigilant of these areas for the rest of the siege until further precautions could be made to halt the flow of the verminkind. The loss of the grain was probably the greatest wound the skaven could have inflicted, rations were already going to be tight and now things were only going to get worse. Xiomar sighed and started walking back to the walls, this was no time for contemplation when there was work afoot.

* * * * *

Nicodemus stared ahead into the leafy boughs of Athel Loren, a sudden foreboding gripping his stomach as he looked into those shadows. He had been uneasy for the past week as their retinue, greatly diminished from what had set out from Mousillon, had travelled towards this their destination. No Chaos worshippers had barred them access, nor tried to attack them as they slept, nothing had arisen to bar their way to the forest, and now they were here practically unopposed. Nicodemus’s instincts screamed at him that something was wrong, but he didn’t know what the northmen would gain by allowing them to reach their quarry. A large shadow passed over Nicodemus as Daggon circled lower to the ground in order to land beside his human friend.

“We’ve arrived,” Daggon said as Nicodemus came up beside him.

“I see that, isn’t it strange that we’ve come this far without any opposition, though?” Nicodemus responded without looking at his friend, his eyes scanning their surroundings.

“We’re being followed,” Daggon replied in a casual tone. “I’ve seen them while I was flying above, there is a sizeable army following behind us by several leagues, they make no effort to catch up to us, though.”

“This makes no sense, why would they want us to get to our goal?”

“I don’t know, but it is of no concern to us, my kin will smash them to dust if they so much as come within bowshot of the forest.” By now, the train had reached the edge of the forest and several of its members were already under the canopy, the autumnal twilight still clinging desperately to the leaves and branches. Nicodemus made to argue with Daggon and press his point about the strangeness of the situation, but the appearance of a lone figure with his bow drawn and pointed at Daggon stopped him short.

The figure was obviously elf by his appearance, loose green and mottled brown cloth added to his concealment and blended with his auburn hair. A forester’s cloak fell back behind him in voluminous folds and a hood masked a large portion of the loner’s features. When he spoke it was with the lilting, almost effeminate tones of the fey folk.

“Prince Daggon! I am ordered to bring you to our court in the deep woods. I would ask that you dismount and surrender your weapons so as to ensure that there are no issues with us or our brethren.” Daggon half snarled at this and made to protest but Nicodemus interrupted him.

“He is one of your people? Why would he cause any problems for you? I thought I would be the most offensive intruder to your sacred wood.”

“Lord Nicodemus, you are well met, and you alone may enter our woods, leave your knights here and they will be well attended and their needs seen to, should they try to enter our forest or do anything to violate our trust, then they will die. However, Prince Daggon, there are some heavy accusations that have been laid against you, and I come to ensure that you answer them.”

Daggon’s face was a mask of rage, but he stilled his emotions and slowly dismounted, two additional elves in similar attire as that of their accuser appeared to take his weapons which he willingly submitted. Archaiadynami growled for a few moments before pushing off the ground and taking to the sky after a subtle nod from his master.

“May I at least know who my accuser is?” Daggon asked.

“You will meet him at your hearing, and not before,” the wood elf replied curtly as he tied Daggon’s hands at the wrist.

* * * * *

Skitr’sneek watched as yet another fight broke out amongst his motley crew of miscreant rodents. The skaven force was broken, in one fell swoop they had lost the three highest ranking commanders in the army and already their would-be successors were clamoring to claim the chief position of warlord. Skitr was content to simply watch at this point, but he was biding his time, until the too hot-headed ones were mostly killed off, then he would put himself forward. At least that had been the plan, that was before the Verminlord had appeared.

In a puff of green smoke that smelled of ozone the great horned rat appeared and with two sharp stabs of his vicious glaive slew the two contenders for the chief spot. Skitr unwittingly let loose the musk of fear at the sight of such a terrible creature in their midst. What’s more, the next thing Skitr saw would have released a second musking had he left any in reserves. Another demon appeared, towering over the Verminlord, with blue-tinged skin and feathered wings spread wide, brushing the top of the subterranean cavern. His face wore a golden mask with bloody tears emanating from the eye sockets that were hollow and black and seemed to take in everything around him.

“You all now hush-hush,” The Verminlord spoke in a voice that both screeched and rumbled at the same time. “When I go-leave you may continue your fight to choose-pick your new chief, but now you listen-hear my words that I speak-command!” The entire pack of vermin that were present cowed back in fear, too terrified to respond. The rat demon took their silence as acknowledgment and continued. “The hour-time has come and we have not killed the man-things yet. They defy the Horned One by their very existence! The council has thought-planned this out and have decided that there is only one way to do this thing. To the east, our rat brothers fight-die to take the man things down there, and many of the dwarf-things lie dead-killed in their mountain keeps. Yet still our enemy is strong! Your elders have decided-chosen to ally with Archaon in his march-charge across the manling empire and have command-ordered you to do the same here. This demon-creature is called Aantar, he is the new chieftain here, and you will listen-hear and obey what he tells you.”

Skitr could barely believe what he was hearing! The skaven were subjecting themselves to the northmen? In a sudden flash of insanity or courage, both of which Skitr despised because those who were possessed of either usually ended up dead, he stepped forward.

“Why-why should we follow these man things against the other man-things up top? What is different from one man thing to the next? Should we not kill-slay them all?”

“You forget your place, rat.” The demon spoke in a voice that rumbled across the small cavern and caused Skitr to shrink back in fear as he realized his own mistake.

“Do you challenge-call your chieftain for rule?” The Verminlord screeched behind Aantar.

“No-no, I do not!” Skitr tried to call out, but it was too late. Already Aantar had summoned a sword of glowing blue fire into his hands and in a blur of motion cleanly sliced the rat’s head from his shoulders. The entire cavern remained in a terrified silence as the rat fell to the ground and filthy blood spurted all over those nearby.

“Are there any other protests?” Aantar spoke to a cavern whose air hung heavy with fresh fear musk.

* * * * *

Daggon blinked at the sudden brightness that assaulted his senses as his guards pushed him into the glade. Tree branches wove intricate patterns as they interlinked to form a type of outdoor temple or church. Roots grew out of the ground to form something akin to raised seating on each side of a stage with a section that mimicked that of a wicker throne. On that throne sat Daggon’s most hated enemy.

“Malekith!” Daggon spat the name as if it were a curse. This earned him a back hand from one of his guards.

“You will show respect in the face of the Eternity King.” The guard grabbed Daggon’s shoulder and pushed him forward to stand directly in front of the throne. The raised root seating was quickly filling with spectators come to see the prince’s fate. Nicodemus was seated as close to the front as he could, the elves stared at him in open disdain. That a human was allowed into these private affairs was unthinkable to most, but Nicodemus paid them no mind. His attention was instead focused on a new arrival that was standing on the stage next to Malekith and his attendants. She was stunningly beautiful, her curved and lithe body was on display for all to see as she was so indecently dressed that only the bare necessities were covered, and even those small trappings that did conceal did not do a very good job of it. Her long, jet black hair fell in voluminous waves down to the small of her back and her face was pulled into a vicious smile that gave her the appearance of being in on a cruel joke.

“That must be Tressalia, one of the king’s consorts.” Alred had appeared out of nowhere to sit next to Nicodemus.

“Is not the king married?” Nicodemus asked, somewhat aghast that Alred would be gossiping so openly.

“Oh, most definitely, but old habits die hard, especially when your lifetime of bad habits is longer than most of your kingdoms’ here in this ‘old’ world” Alred’s eyes flashed darkly as he spoke. “Besides, she is beautiful, even by our standards. I doubt the queen is a very warm bedfellow to him anyways.”

“Is this common amongst your people?” Nicodemus turned to look once more upon the beauty that had caught his eye.

“No more so than among your people. Unfortunately this does not bode well for us, while Malekith seems to have taken his role as our king seriously, having his dark elf lover here to whisper in his ear will not go well for Daggon. Most of his victories before arriving on your shores were against our darker kin. Particularly those from her city. I believe Daggon killed several of her brothers during the last campaign they launched against us.”

“She probably doesn’t take kindly to the truce between your three factions, does she?”

“There are few that do, but I imagine that she is one of those who is striving to undo the tenuous peace. Ah, it seems as though they are starting.” Somehow the light began to dim, though Nicodemus was unsure how that was possible. At the podium a single torch was lit to illuminate any speaker who might approach. Daggon was left in the dark as well, it seems the focus was not meant for him at the moment. Presently, a female elf dressed in simple robes approached the pulpit.

“Before we bring the accused forward, there are a few matters to bring before our Eternity King. Let those who would speak come forth.” At this invitation another elf, this one dressed in full battle regalia stepped forward and a torch sprung to life where he stood. He looked about gravely at the audience sitting in the gloom.

“My people, I have just ridden from the ruins of Altdorf. The city lies in ruins and even now they are preparing to abandon what little is left of their once large metropolis. King Louen Leoncouer, the former king of Bretonnia, has fallen and his head taken as a trophy for the Chaos barbarians.” At this news Nicodemus sat forward with a sharp intake of breath, his face twisting into various stages of rage and denial. “Several other heroes of man have fallen and even the Emperor Karl Franz himself nearly fell in battle if not for some miracle that brought him back from the dead. Yet even this miracle has not been enough to stem the tide of Chaos. Very soon they will abandon Altdorf and flee to a more secure city, so they have said. Which one they would not say, but that was weeks ago and by now and they must surely have abandoned Altdorf and ridden to their new hold. We must ride to help them! King Malekith, you have taken the throne of our people, but now a greater threat than just to our races hangs in the balance. I urge you to rally our forces and march to their aid. If they cannot hold back the tides of Chaos, then we, too, shall fall once the northmen and their demonic allies have finished with the humans to the east. Please, let us go to them!” There was a long pause, and then a voice trembled out of the darkness, whispering echoes that hinted at deep caverns and powerful, unseen currents.

“We will not commit our fractured armies to battle when the grief of our homelands lies so near at memory’s door. The humans are beneath our notice and unworthy of our aid. You see that they have not sent their own envoy to request our help? It is because they are not so desperate as you make them seem. We must first shore up our borders before seeing to the needs of others.” Malekith’s voice echoed through the shadows in a way that didn’t seem possible, it was as if he were whispering in everyone’s ears like a conspirator would do.

“But my lord!” The armored elf tried to speak but Malekith would have nothing to do with it, his torch guttered out and the quiet whisper of power became a full blown deluge as the King of Shadows’ allowed his true voice to be heard.

“ENOUGH! I have given you my verdict, your time is spent and there are other matters to see to at this time. Leave now, and see to your duties, Kerthus, make sure that my armies are ready when I do decide to go to war.” A long moment of silence followed as the armored elf retreated back to the spectators’ ranks. The female elf at the podium barely contained the tremble in her voice as she spoke next.

“Lord Nicodemus of Bretonnia, you have dealings with the Eternity King? Step forward.”

Nicodemus started with surprise and looked at Alred who simply motioned with his eyes towards the nearest torch. The old knight stood slowly and approached the designated area, as he did so the torch flickered and lit itself. Nicodemus stood for a few moments, unsure of what to say before starting to speak.

“My lords and ladies,” he began “, my homeland has become ravaged by an invading army of northmen. My borders have been pushed back and even now the city of Mousillon, which is where we have decided to make our final stand, is under siege by an army of such numbers that I cannot count. My people cannot hold out alone, we need your help. Prince Daggon and his troops have been a key part of our salvation thus far, but even his help is dwindling as this war wages on and he needs more help. We need more help.” Nicodemus stared into the darkness where he assumed the King sat and watched as it pulsated, power radiated from the podium, it made Nicodemus want to flinch back, but he held firm. “Beyond all of this, we have recovered an artefact that is so powerful that we cannot allow it to fall into enemy hands. The weapon is so evil as to render it toxic and unfit for use. We have sought to destroy it, but no one, not even the master mage Alred could destroy the weapon, and so we have come here in hopes that there may be some way that you might help us. We have seen countless numbers of our people fall, and their sacrifices will be in vain if we cannot at least destroy this abomination. At least lend us your knowledge if nothing else. But I would ask, no I would beg,” Nicodemus lowered himself to his knees, his pride stinging, but he knew what his duty required of him, he leaned forward and placed his forehead on the ground “Please, King Malekith, save my people and win the debt and gratitude of a nation.” A drawn out silence filled an eternal void as Nicodemus waited for a response, but when it came it was not Malekith’s voice who responded, it was one far more familiar and filled Nicodemus with a sickening dread.

“These are lies, my king, nothing more.” A torch flickered to life and illuminated the sneering face of Lianthur. Nicodemus jerked himself to his feet and his hands went to his sword.

“That would be unwise, human.” Malekith’s voice boomed from the darkness, cowing Nicodemus to hold his blade. “Why do you accuse this man of lying, Prince Lianthur?”

“Simply put, I was there. I travelled to this man’s homeland. Not only was I treated with utmost disrespect for the aid that I offered there, he threw me out of his kingdom when I sought to expose the treachery in his midst. This man is blinded by Chaos, it is quite possible that his kingdom is already destroyed and he is plagued by visions of ghosts brought on by the great deceiver himself. His is a lost cause, especially when he has sided with a traitor.” Something began tugging at Nicodemus’s mind, a creeping lethargy that left him somewhat bewildered.

“This brings us to our third point, I presume that I may proceed seeing as how these two points are linked?” The elf looked behind her and received some form of approval. “Prince Lianthur, please proceed with your accusations.” Lianthur’s sneering smile deepened as he turned to look at the shadows where Daggon stood. The torches around him flickered to life and illuminated the captive prince.

“This elf has betrayed us. He has given himself to the God of Pleasure and has taken his entire army with him into the throes of sin and excess. When I found out about this treachery I tried to warn the human knight about it, but he was already under Daggon’s thrall and instead cast me and those few that would follow me out of his lands under penalty of death should I return. I suppose we should not blame him, he is after all simply human and should not be expected to withstand against such potent seduction as the Lord of Excess. All the same, Daggon is a vile corruptor and should be put to death. He killed several of my men and sacrificed them to his dark gods, simply ask the human about it. I am lucky to have escaped with my life.”

“Interesting,” Malekith’s voice purred, “is this true, human? Did Daggon make sacrifices to Slaanesh while in your realm?” Nicodemus barely understood the question that was asked of him, his mind was swimming beneath layers of choking fog and perfume. He vaguely remembered seeing elf bodies, forbidden marks of a dark deity carved into their flesh, but where had that been?

“You see my lord? His befuddled words suggest that he is fighting through a cloud of suggestion spells meant to clog his memory and give him the false visions that he revealed to you when he spoke earlier. He admits to seeing the bodies of my men who were sacrificed, he has revealed that they were indeed sacrifices by his descriptions of the marks cut into their flesh. Daggon is a pleasure worshipper, of the vilest kind.” Lianthur’s voice pushed back some of the fog surrounding Nicodemus’s senses, he didn’t remember saying anything, but the crowd was reacting in such a way that it seemed apparent that something had been said to upset them.

Nicodemus couldn’t remember anything though. In fact, all he could think of was the beautiful, barely clothed elf that he had seen earlier. What had Alred called her? Tressalia? Nicodemus’s body was on fire and adrenaline ran through his veins at the thought of her. In his mind’s eye she beckoned to him, her delicate mouth no longer sneering, but rather her lip was clenched by her teeth in desire, she was calling to him. Something important pulled at Nicodemus, cried out in warning, but the only thing that he could focus on was his desire to feel the softness of her flesh, he yearned for it in such a way that if he could not have it, he would kill himself and those that would take her from him. Before he would take his own life, he thought to himself, he would kill her, so that no one else could have her if he could not. This last thought jarred Nicodemus, what kind of thought was that? Why would he kill a person simply out of jealousy? Where had that thought come from. Nicodemus’s vision began to fade and he began to see the sneering, cruel smile of Tressalia looming as it had in his memory. She was still beautiful, but now it was a cold, angry beautiful. She was no lover, she used people for her pleasure and discarded them at will. The sneer deepened as Nicodemus’s focus sharpened.

“No!” Nicodemus cried out, and the spell was broken. He found himself staring out at the shadowed court and Malekith was speaking. It seemed as though his outburst had not been out loud, but only in his head.

“With this new knowledge, we have determined that our servant Lianthur has done us a great service in revealing this treachery, and we sentence Prince Daggon to death, to be carried out immediately following this court.”

“Your majesty, I say unto you that Lianthur is a liar!” Nicodemus’s voice rang out loud and clear. Lianthur’s face twisted in surprise and he looked sharply at the stage where the beautiful witch must have stood. “Lianthur is the treacherous one! It is he that has poisoned the minds of those around him. I can prove it!”

“How might you prove this disturbing accusation?” Malekith’s voice trembled with barely contained rage.

“Send for my men and they will testify the same, they also saw the bodies and will testify to the same. Allow your mages to examine us, and you will find that we are under no spell. I would also urge you to examine Lianthur’s flesh. Is it not customary for those of the Pleasure Cults to carve their dark god’s symbols into their flesh?”

“What say you to this Lianthur? Do you deny these accusations?” Malekith ire turned on the dark mage.

“Of course I do! The man is befuddled with enchantments, he cannot be trusted.”

“Then you will not object to us examining your flesh? Or to summoning his knights to verify his story?”

“You cannot be serious, my lord! He is a human, a thrall to Daggon’s sorceries and Slaanesh’s puppet! I will not allow myself to be searched like a common criminal!”

“In that case, I must insist. Seize him!” Malekith’s voice rose to a commanding cry, the guards next to Daggon did not stir, neither did those beside Lianthur, who had lowered his head. His shoulders heaved as if he were coughing, then the sound of broken laughter began to echo through the darkened trees.

“You whore! You said he wouldn’t be able to speak!” Lianthur accused the stage filled with darkness. “And you! Eternity King! Ha, what a laughable name! Your eternal reign will be shorter than those of the human kings! My lord has foreseen it! You will burn in anguish for a thousand years in his kingdom!” With that Lianthur turned and rammed a dagger into the guard nearest him. As suddenly as that the shadows fled and the court was filled with afternoon sunlight. As if it had been planned, various scantily clad elves, similar in beauty to Tressalia sprung out of the crowd. Several of the head witch’s attendants quickly began dispatching Malekith’s attendants on the stage before anyone could react. Nicodemus looked over to Daggon and saw the two guards that were watching over him had him held to the ground and one held a large two handed sword over his head preparing a downward stroke. In a matter of steps Nicodemus plunged his sword clear through the back of the elf with the raised sword so that it protruded from his chest in a shower of dark gore that sprayed his comrade in the face. In one swift motion Nicodemus pulled his blade free and levelled a cut that removed the other elf’s head before he could recover from the blood in his eyes. Reaching down he helped Daggon to his feet and quickly cut his bonds.

“I owe you my life, my friend,” Daggon said as he rubbed his wrists in an attempt to get the blood flowing again.

“Consider us even, you go and help out on the stage, I’ll take care of things here.” Nicodemus picked up one of the guard’s blades and tossed it to Daggon before charging at the nearest indecently clad female elfs he could see.

Daggon rushed the stage. The first witch he saw was cut down with a quick flash of his sword. Her scream seemed to be more of pleasure rather than pain, even as she choked on her own blood and writhed on the floor. Daggon shuddered but ducked under another blow that had been aimed at his throat, he pushed the point of his blade upwards and impaled a bare midriff clean through so that it severed a spine. The elf moaned and her eyes rolled into the back of her head as if enjoying a lover’s embrace and continued to thrash about even as the life faded from her body. Turning, Daggon blocked another blow, but a well timed counterstrike left a burning line across his cheek and the ridge of his nose. Blood stung his eyes as it mingled with sweat to irritate those bloodshot orbs. Staggering backwards and scrubbing his vision, Daggon swung wildly, he connected with something and felt his blade bite deeply, but instead of screams he heard maniacal laughter. Forcing his eyes open, Daggon saw an elf with a bloody stump for a hand charge him with an upraised dagger. The elven prince brought his blade up to sever the remaining arm before pushing her aside and disconnected her spine with a backward slash of his blade.

Daggon searched for the Eternity King and found him surrounded by six other witches. One of them leapt at Malekith and fell when a blade that was so fast it left after-images in Daggon’s vision cut through her middle, she stopped mid leap and landed. She smiled as blood flowed out of her mouth and she toppled down in two pieces. Two other witches launched themselves at the king, they died in similar fashion as Malekith’s blade opened them in red fountains of gore. The remaining three witches circled their prey as Daggon advanced on them, but he knew that he wouldn’t reach them in time to do anything. As if to confirm this thought the three elves threw themselves at Malekith, the first one he impaled with a quick thrust of his sword, but instead of dying she grabbed his wrist and pulled herself further onto the blade, crying out in ecstasy as she did so. This action confused the king enough that one of the other two remaining witches managed to slam one of her daggers into a chink in his armor at the shoulder and he cried out as he staggered back clutching the embedded dagger’s hilt, releasing his sword as he did so. Pulling the dagger free, Malekith used his off hand to grab the hair of the last witch as she lunged at him and spun her around so she faced away from her before planting the stolen dagger in the middle of her chest. She gasped and dropped to the floor a corpse. Daggon kept moving towards the elven king, some sixth sense pushing him forward despite the king’s obvious ability to take care of himself. In a moment it became clear why.

As the last witch elf advanced on the Eternity King, another of her sisters appeared behind him. Even as Malekith grabbed his assailant around the neck and twisted sharply until there was a sharp crack, the hidden assassin lept at his unprotected back, both daggers raised. Daggon coiled all of his strength into his legs and threw himself past Malekith, slashing out with his blade in a desperate stroke. When he landed, he was covered in blood and found himself staring into the glazed eyes of yet another witch elf. Looking behind him Daggon saw Malekith staring back at him in surprise. Then he did something that Daggon did not expect, he reached out a hand to help him up.

“I suppose you are no traitor, unless this is all one elaborate ruse for some unknown end.” Malekith sniffed as he spoke. Looking out over the assembly, the last of the witch elves were either dying or had fled. There was no sign of Tressalia among the bodies, nor of Lianthur.

“I assure you, King Malekith, that I am no traitor, and that what we have shared with you is the truth.” It stung Daggon’s pride to call Malekith “king” but he knew what was at stake.

“We suppose we shall have to grant your request then, but by doing so we see our debt to you fulfilled.” Malekith didn’t even bother to look at Daggon while he was speaking. “Draw up your conscriptions and have them delivered to us and we will see them granted.” Malekith turned to walk out without any further discussion. Daggon was happy to let him go.

* * * * *

“We cannae ha’ oor young uns’ and oor elders dyin’ here.” Sheila spoke in no uncertain terms to Gregor. The Bretonnian stood in grimy armor and held a bloodied sword in his hand.

“I agree with you, but where would you have us send them? And what troops would you spare to protect their safe voyage?”

“We cood send them by ship.” Sheila responded “I ha’ a few beardlings that cood care fer em’, Aren’t much good a’ fightin’ but they’ll help em’ ta feel safer.”

“Our pegasus knights tell us that there is a fleet of Chaos warships not a week out and you want us to send our refugees right into the midst of them?”

“If’n we get them oot tonight, they migh’t ha a chance o makin’ it” Sheila responded cooly “Tis’ better chances than they’ll have if’n they stay here.”

Gregor considered this for a moment. I’ve found that one life or many makes no difference to the weight you’ll feel on your shoulders. Nicodemus’s words came back to him, he hadn’t realized how accurate they would be.

“Fine, but the docks are held by the skaven, I don’t even know if there are any serviceable ships that can be used to get them out of here.” Gregor sighed.

“Thar’s a steel dwarven ship oot there, a pair o’ em. All the refugees can fit inta one o’ those, we’ll send onna our engineers ta make sure it’s run properly.” Sheila smiled her gratitude.

“Very well, but I put it to your task, your people will have to do it, I can only spare a few knights if you need them. I charge you with getting our people to safety and seeing them out of the port.” Gregor smiled, it seemed the only thing worth doing at this point, if he couldn’t save the city, at least they might save a few individuals. Sheila smiled, too, and moved off to begin preparations for a night raid on the docks.

Gregor turned and was surprised to find Lady Lucas standing before him.

“My lady! I didn’t see you there, You startled me.” Gregor stopped and looked at her eyes that were brimming with tears. “Are you okay?”

“I know how to destroy it,” She whispered in a tight voice. “I have found how to destroy the blade…” For the first time Aantar noticed that she held a small book in her hand that seemed to be bound in some exotic type of leather.

“This is excellent news! Are you sure you’ve figured it out?” Gregor placed a hand on her shoulder. Lucas stared at him a moment before throwing herself at him and sobbing on his shoulder uncontrollably. Gregor’s face became hard as stone.

“Tell me everything.” he said.

* * * * *

That night, as the dwarven convoy made preparations to sally forth and clear the docks, a black-clad assassin scurried away to warn the new warlord. Their precious prey was planning on escaping, and they couldn’t have that… now could they?

When the dwarf forces finally opened the gates to charge forward they were met with a grisly sight full of mottled fur and rusted steel barring them passage to the docks.

“Wull lads, the bloody rats dinnae mean ta let us pass w’out a fight, tha’ be fine by me, reddy the lads for an attack an’ gi’ the order to open fire.” Sheila laughed and hefted her heavy hammer in anticipation.

* * * * *

Daggon would be glad to be out of the forest. The frosty reception and near death experiences in what should have been a safe stronghold were still too fresh in his memory to allow him to find solace in its embrace. Nicodemus rode beside him, his face held a puzzled look and he kept muttering to himself.

“Are you alright my friend?” Daggon’s voice startled Nicodemus and caused him to look up.

“It’s the damndest thing. Even though I know that elf was a sorceress whore, even now I find my mind is filled with images of her, some of them in the most indecent of positions. I can’t seem to stop thinking of her, even though I know her to be an evil witch indecent of any man’s adoration.” Nicodemus shook his head “I hope with time such things will pass.”

“She was beautiful, even if she was evil. It is not a bad thing to admire beauty, but one must be aware of the evil as well if there be any. Should the opportunity arise and you are confronted by her again, I have no doubt that you will do the right thing.”

“Thank you, Daggon, your confidence is my salvation. I want you to know how much I value your friendship.” Nicodemus’s voice became husky and he stared straight ahead.

“And I yours,” Daggon responded. Together the two friends rode in silence for some time. Slowly their refreshed army finally began to break through the last bits of the forest up ahead. A commotion at the head of the column brought them up short and Daggon spurred his mount forward. When he reached the head of the train, he quickly saw what the commotion was. A large Chaos army was spread out before them, and in the center of them stood Lianthur, purple energies swirling about him as he sneered at his former kingdom’s people. Beside him, astride a fell steed, sat the foul lepor Gethus, his face hidden behind a veiled screen and a rotting hood.

“We almost had you back there, didn’t we little Daggon?” Lianthur’s mocking voice echoed across the field. “If that stupid witch had kept her word we would have, too! I suppose I’ll just have to settle with killing you this way and burning the forest to the ground instead!” Lianthur raised his blade above his head and yelled for the charge. Daggon cursed and began issuing hasty battle commands.



   
Made in us
Crazy Marauder Horseman







Chapter 12: The End Times Cometh

Daggon picked his way carefully across the corpse strewn battlefield. The fighting had been rough and he was tired and sore, but his troops had carried the day. Daggon had lost sight of the traitor Lianthur during the fighting and was hoping beyond hope to find his corpse among those that littered the ground. The victory had come at a price, though. The day was spent and his troops that had survived were all fighting back various diseases and infections spread from the rusty and disease crusted blades that the enemy had utilised. Several of his troops had collapsed and succumbed to diseases such as the Putrid Shakes and Ice Chill Fever. Others fought off infections as bad as the Red-Eyed Vomit, and The Yellow Bile. Daggon himself would have died if not for the timely arrival of the Everqueen and her entourage. Alarielle’s coming had been the spring wind that had breathed new life into the infected troops and brought them back from the fringes of death. Nurgle’s gifts would not claim any more lives from this battle, but even so those that had been brought back were struggling to regain their strength and many would not be able to stand, much less fight, for many days and possibly weeks. No one could explain what had brought the Everqueen, or how she had arrived at precisely the right time to wash away the filth of the plague warriors. Yet no one could see the waves of healing power that had rippled away from her and not be grateful for her presence.
“Prince Daggon!” A voice called out and Daggon shifted his gaze to a younger soldier who had been going through the bodies in a similar fashion as himself. The soldier was beckoning to the prince and so he made his way slowly across the mass of death beneath him until he arrived at the soldier’s side, behind him lay a mound of dead northmen and elves alike.
“What is it?” Daggon demanded. The young elf’s eyes had a malicious gleam as he turned and pushed the hulking mound of flesh that had been one of Nurgle’s choice warriors out of the way. What was revealed caused Daggon to take a sharp breath and his hand moved instantly to his sword hilt. Lianthur lay sprawled out before him, unconscious. His thigh was pierced through with an elven spear, and the corpse of the fallen disease monger had had the fortune to cut his outstretched forearm as well, pustules and weeping sores spread out from that malignant wound. His breath came in shallow gasps and his face was flushed with an unhealthy pallor. Daggon slowly drew his sword and placed the tip at the base of his enemy’s sternum, preparing himself for the fateful blow. The soldier at his side waited with eager anticipation. A red cloud descended on them both, their vision swam with a vengeful desire. Daggon raised his blade up and prepared to plunge it down into Lianthur’s exposed chest, too swift an end for one such as this, the sword fell with the weight of retribution carrying it down. Until a touch stopped it.
The red haze fled to the edges of Daggon’s eyes and he stared at the elegant hand that rested on his shoulder. The killing blow had stopped a breath away from piercing the betrayer’s flesh. Part of Daggon still ached to press down and finish the strike.
“This is not his fate.” Alarielle’s voice radiated with a smooth velvet that warmed Daggon’s limbs and pushed the red haze further out of his vision. “Revenge is a heady thing to imbibe, and one that our race rarely handles well. Lianthur deserves a death far more spectacular than a simple mercy kill on a conquered battlefield, and I feel that he will receive just such an end. But it is not here.” Daggon watched with growing incredulity as she reached down and caressed the infected wound on Daggon’s forearm, instantly the angry red of infection retreated and the wound closed itself. The spear wound to his side she left alone, as it was not life threatening and had merely crippled the treacherous elf.
“So you will take him back to your husband to face his ‘justice’?” Daggon’s voice dripped with petulence, he was not proud of it but he would not deny his bitter disappointment. Alarielle gave a tired laugh.
“My husband’s courts are many things, I would not include ‘just’ among them however.” She sighed, still not taking her eyes of the still unconscious Lianthur. “No, I think that his wrongs are not only against you and those under your command, but also against those humans to the west who have suffered from his cruel machinations. You alone will not decide his fate, but you will be part of that decision. For now, bind him and bring him back to your camp, time is running out and we have so very precious little left.”
* * * * *
Nicodemus’s chair fell back as he stood and reached for the blade at his side.
“You brought that snake back into our midst? What would possess you to do such a foolish thing? Let us put a blade to his throat and be done with it!” Nicodemus eyed Lianthur’s sneering smile that seemed to gloat despite the gore stained clothes he wore or the fact that his hands were bound firmly behind his back and trussed to his ankles like a haunch of wild game being prepared for butchering. “He doesn’t even deserve the honor of a blade, bring me a cudgel, that is a peasant’s weapon and still too good of an end for a creature such as he!”
“Enough!” Alarielle’s voice pushed Nicodemus to his knees as the knife he held in his hand fell from nerveless fingers. “I grow tired of repeating myself! The traitor will face your justice soon enough, but there is something bigger here than simple revenge. Something tells me that he is to serve a greater purpose than a simple ignominious death, though I cannot say what that purpose will be.”
“You will regret not killing me, I promise you. My lord Slaanesh has promised me pleasures without end, I think that one of my rewards will be stripping every layer of flesh off of your pretty face and ravaging that wonderful body you possess, Incarnate.” Lianthur’s voice trailed off in a manic bubble of laughter. Alarielled turned and with a contemptuous wave of her wrist a root sprang from the ground and plunged into the crazed elf’s mouth, effectively gagging him in a most unpleasant way.
“Just because we have not given you death does not mean you don’t deserve it, you loathsome wretch! You deserve far more than a simple execution!” Lianthur’s eyes bulged as the root pushed farther down his throat, his breaths came in pained wheezes through his nose and blood trickled from the corners of his mouth. With a jarring twist of her hand, the root convulsed and pulled out of Lianthur’s mouth, a bloody trail following the tuber’s departure. Lianthur tried to speak, but all that came out was a frothy whisper punctuated by flecks of bloody phlegm.
“You whore!” He managed to croak before a sanguine cough shook his body and more thick, red spittle sprayed on the ground beneath him.
“What did you do to him?” Nicodemus’s face was a mixture of satisfaction and horror.
“I ripped out most of his vocal chords, a pity I could not get them all but I fear I was a bit too focused on other things and didn’t want to kill him. He’ll live, but his vocal outbursts will be much more minimal this way.” Her words were punctuated with a violent coughing fit brought on by the captive. “To make sure that he does not die…” Alarielle waved her hand and the coughing stopped, yet when Lianthur’s hateful eyes turned towards her his mouth remained closed. “Much better.”
Alarielle turned and once again addressed the gathered leadership who was now very quiet and very intent on everything she had to say.
“Your forces have been depleted, and there is nothing that you can do about that. Some of your troops will not be able to walk for days, and fighting will be out of the question for months for some. Your human fortress will not hold for that long, and so you must return and quickly. Take what soldiers can still stand and hold a weapon now and I will take you through the world roots to the center of your city, there is a small grove there that will give us access. Once there, evacuate your citizens, they will find sanctuary here, I swear it. I will not allow the cursed blade to enter our borders, however. Such an artefact would only draw the ruinous powers here sooner and I fear that there is already too much coming our way for us to be able to withstand much longer. Go now, and prepare your troops for what will be your most desperate battle.”
* * * * *
Gregor’s sword tore through the sinew and tendons of the barbarian’s leg, removing it just below the knee. The man screamed as he fell, still thrashing about with his corroded axe, and Gregor’s return stroke flew down silencing him with finality. Turning, the young knight narrowly evaded the swipe of an enemy’s cruel spiked cudgel. Gregor thrust forward with the point of his sword and was met with a meaty resistance and he pressed forward bringing the heathen’s face within inches of his own. The Chaos worshipper coughed, throwing hot breath and hotter blood into Gregor’s face, he winced and brought his foot up to push the already cooling corpse off his blade. He looked about him on the gore-slicked stones of the wall’s bastions, the amount of northmen bodies was staggering, but dotted throughout the bare chested corpses were those of fallen dwarves, elves, and men, their blood mingling and slicking the bare stone with dangerous effects. More bodies lay strewn about the courtyard below that were victim to the uneven footing that was present on the walls.
For three straight days the defenders had been fighting, taking shifts so as to avoid absolute exhaustion, but it didn’t seem to have made a dent in the reserves that the enemy still seemed to be able to throw at them and the casualties were mounting higher. Sheila’s foray to secure the docks had ended in disaster, the Skaven had been waiting in vast numbers and almost half of Sheila’s forces were consumed in the doomed effort. In the end they had retreated back inside the walls and abandoned any further attempts to take the docks. This left Gregor with a city still teeming with refugees. Soon they would not be able to hold back the onslaught.
“Trinidad!” Gregor called his commander to his side, the Youngling champion finished his opponent off with a deft feint and riposte and called for another to take his place in the skirmish as he moved to stand before Gregor. “Take a detachment of peasants and start evacuating the citizens to the upper districts. If the nobles there have a problem with this, tell them they can fall in line or I will come and remove them from it myself. Also, give Lady Lucas this message: tell her that it’s time and I will meet her at the tower, have the Phoenix regiment meet me there, too.” Trinidad was too tired to even act surprised and jogged off to carry out Gregor’s orders. Gregor watched him go with a mixture of anxiety and trepidation. He walked over to the nearby musician who held a war horn in his hands. Gregor gave the order for a fighting retreat and the order was relayed by the sounds of trumpets blaring across the walls. It was more than a little disconcerting when several regiments to the east did not respond.
Gregor sighed, he knew that by giving this order he had essentially destroyed any hopes of Nicodemus and Daggon being able to get in by any means other than flying in. Which meant that they were now utterly alone. The northmen would surround the inner city, and there were no armies capable of marching to their aid that would be sufficient in size to defeat the force that was arranged against the city of Mousillon. By giving this order he was sealing their fate, but the fighting was simply a distraction to buy time for the Ritual to be complete. Gregor winced at that thought and what it had entailed. His men made a hasty retreat. When the reached the base of the wall, those knights who still lived mounted their horses and began a battle in earnest even as the rest of the troops fell back to the city and began deploying Gregor’s tactics for delay.
The knights, seeing that the rest of the army had successfully retreated fell back themselves, their horses hooves crashing against the raised cobblestones of the city streets. As they passed clusters of peasant soldiers, a great ruckus echoed through the streets as Peasants dumped out gold and precious heirlooms onto the ground. Many of the northmen stopped upon seeing this and fell to looting the glittering prizes that littered the floor around them. While most of the barbarians were distracted by this tactic, many others continued to charge forward, their lust for blood outweighing their lust of gold. The nobles of the city had balked at that requirement when Gregor had sent his troops into the rich sectors of the city and pulled what valuables they could in order to lay just such a trap to cover their retreat. Above these key points where the gold was scattered were boiling pots of tar and oil, and at Gregor’s signal those pots tipped onto the writhing masses of looting barbarians followed closely by flaming arrows that lit the streets ablaze in an acrid smoke and black-edged oily flames. The screams of the northmen were enough to cause even seasoned soldiers to shiver. Gregor did not so much as give a backward glance as he rode on to the tower and his rendezvous with destiny.
The tower was a mage tower located next to an eccentric old school of wizards in the rich sector of town. They had originally come as delegates to the Empire, and had built the tower as a means of furthering their research. However, when it had been found out that they had been practicing necromancy the wizards had disappeared mysteriously, leaving behind the old abandoned mage tower. Lucas had said that it was a focal point for the magical energies in the area and that would be needed for what they had planned.
Gregor urged his horse onwards, tearing through the streets of the rich district. As he was passing the park that marked the center of the area, he was astonished to find the trees were moving. Gregor shook his head, certain that the strain of the last few days of battle had taken their toll on him and that his sanity was slipping. He slowed his steed and watched the trees yet again, but he had not been mistaken. One of the large elm trees slid sideways and a hooded figure appeared, that figure was soon joined by others and soon mounted elven warriors began to appear. Gregor could not believe what he was seeing, but when the notable forms of Daggon astride his mighty draconic steed appeared followed closely by that of Nicodemus on his mount Gregor almost broke down in gratitude to the Lady for this tender mercy, he spurred his horse over to the emerging army.
“My lord!” Gregor called out, Nicodemus turned and smiled at his ward.
“Gregor! You yet live! This is a good sign, but why are you this deep inside the city?” Nicodemus paused for a moment’s breath before continuing on without waiting for a response, “Never mind that, you need to get all of the survivors here instantly, we need to evacuate the city and this is our way out.” The puzzled look on Gregor’s face stopped the older knight from continuing.
“My lord, the city is falling. Even now the Chaos worshippers have begun to swarm to this location, my men can only hold them for so long. The plan was to hold them off here for as long as we would be able and to stall them long enough for us to destroy the Blade if you did not return in time.” Gregor spoke slowly trying to work out the fast paced events that had assailed him in the last few moments.
“What do you mean ‘destroy the Blade’? Have you found a way to do so?” Nicodemus grabbed Gregor’s shoulders as he spoke.
“Lady Lucas thinks so, but it’s at a terrible cost.”
“What is it? We have to do something as we cannot allow it to fall into the hands of Chaos, what does she require?” Nicodemus eyed the younger knight who responded slowly.
“You will have to speak to her about that, I couldn’t explain what she has told me. At least not adequately. But it is a terrible price. She is at the Mages’ Tower, I was on my way to her when I saw you arrive.” Gregor’s voice trailed away as Nicodemus turned and barked orders at one of the Grail Knights who had accompanied him to organize the citizens and rally them to the park in order to evacuate them, and to organize the battle line here so as to defend their retreat. Without a word to Gregor, the weary veteran turned and began riding off in the direction of the tower. The younger knight sighed and spurred his horse to follow.
* * * * *
Aantar’s eyes no longer saw the world as mortals see it. Instead of the vibrant colors of day and the muted tones of night, now everything was simply seen in shades of gray. There was no difference between day and night, and since he no longer required sleep there wasn’t even that to mark the passage of days. How long had it been since his lord had raised him to this form? It felt like ages and yet he knew it had been only months since his broken body had been ripped from the rocks where it had shattered after his descent. He remembered the emotional agony of finding himself revived and he had flown throughout the realms of Nicodemus’s territories in an effort to find something that could end his existence for true and with the fall of the empires of man there were more than enough horrors out there that were likely candidates. However, none had proven worthy to the cause, instead he had slain everything he had come against. Finally the whispers of his Master had become more persistent and he had found himself returning to the campaign to reclaim the Blade, and now he was here preparing to make the final blow. The weeks of constant assaults by the eager but weak marauders that had accompanied this new horde had softened the outer defenses and even now they were pushing into the city. Nicodemus’s ward had been a shrewd warrior and had done well in defending the walls, but now the city was hours from falling.
Aantar stared out across the destruction that he had wrought on this mortal kingdom. Bretonnia was now a graveyard, filled with ashen cities and broken strongholds. The world was coming to an end and the days of man were come to fulfillment. The part of Aantar that still remembered his own humanity screamed at him from within, but he was long past listening to such an insignificant portion of his mind. Memories flitted past his vision, the only one that gave him pause was that one involving a beautiful woman. He remembered holding her wasted form, the tears that even now poured out of the hollow sockets of his mask began then. He remembered the moment when he plunged his knife into her flesh, yet he couldn’t remember why he had done it. The memory still caused him some kind of pain, but he could not remember what had caused him to do such an act. Now he knew that the woman whom he had sacrificed burned in the eternal maze of his Master, her sanity having fled her years ago. If he had cared about her so much then why had he sacrificed her to such a fate? It mattered little, there was work afoot that needed his attention. His old enemy Nicodemus had returned to the battle. How he had gotten inside the city without Aantar knowing was beyond him, but again it was not an important detail at this time, he would die all the same. Aantar shrugged his wings out to their full extent, flexing them before pushing off and flying into the sky. The hour of his old friend’s death drew nigh. Beneath his golden mask Aantar the Forlorn smiled a rare smile.

   
Made in us
Crazy Marauder Horseman







Chapter 13: The Desperate Plan

Grimme looked up as the door opened and Nicodemus stepped through. At first Grimme was wary and stood up to defend Lucas, certain that this was a demonic doppelganger or some other trick. Then Gregor stepped into the room swiftly, raising a hand to the grizzled veteran.
“Stand down Grimme, it’s him. The elven queen sent them through to us by some magical means that I still do not understand. He’s come to speak with the Lady Lucas.” Grimme only slightly relaxed, but did not move. Nicodemus nodded at his old friend and did not try to walk past him but instead spoke to Lucas over his shoulder. The lady was working furtively over what looked to be a circle with symbols that seemed to crawl when you stared at them. Equally spaced about the circle’s edge were four symbols that writhed and cackled with power. Nicodemus recognized several of the symbols from somewhere, and his eyes grew wide in shock.
“What is this blasphemy that you have wrought here, Lucas?” without looking up, the damsel spoke.
“It is the only way! The forge will destroy the Blade, then the voices will stop! Chaos will not have the Blade, I swear it! The demons will leave. There is no other way.” Lucas continued on, muttering to herself. Nicodemus turned to Gregor with a piercing look.
“What is the meaning of this?” Gregor had a hard time meeting his lord’s gaze.
“Shortly after you left, Lucas approached me in tears saying that she had found a way to destroy the Blade. It took several hours before she calmed down enough to tell me of the details and when she did, I reacted as you did just now. But as the weeks wore on and our numbers grew smaller and smaller and it became apparent you weren’t going to return, I told her to proceed with the preparations, I thought it better that we do something than simply allow the Blade to fall into Aantar’s grasp.”
“How could you allow this?” Nicodemus’s eyes spat fire, his voice was an avalanche on Gregor’s conscience.
“I made the hard decision, the ones you said you were confident I could make!” Gregor straightened up defensively and threw Nicodemus’s words back in his face. “Maybe you shouldn’t have left us with an impossible task! Then you could have been the one to take the blame!” Nicodemus’s face grew red and twisted into something almost demonic in his anger. He stared long and hard at his ward for several minutes before softening, his shoulders slumped in dejection and he turned back to look at Lucas’s handiwork.
“What exactly is she doing? It looks like some kind of Chaos shrine or ritual.”
“Lucas said that she had found a book that spoke of a way to open a portal into the Chaos realms with unerring accuracy. She said that it was in one of the forbidden books found in this very tower. The author was some lunatic that wandered the Chaos wastes and recorded his findings there, I don’t know all of the details. She said that if she were able to open a portal directly into Khorne’s forge that the fires within it would be sufficient to destroy the Blade.” Silence hung heavy in the air for several minutes longer. Each moment more expectant than the last.
“She said that there was a ritual in this book that would allow her to accomplish this, but that it would require invoking the Ruinous Powers, and something worse… I told her to burn the book, I told her that it wasn’t worth what she was asking. But then we lost the outer walls to the east, and I knew that you weren’t coming back. This weapon in the hands of Chaos would be disastrous, and if that meant us dying, then what difference did it make if we died by a Northman axe or an executioner’s blade? I authorized the Ritual, and since then she’s been like this. I positioned Sir Grimme and his men to watch over her, but what else were we supposed to do?”
“You would sell your soul in order to destroy this item? You would turn to this unnatural ritual rather than die with a sword in your hand? I thought better of you than this!” Nicodemus snarled and moved to push past Grimme who stood firmly in his way and would not be moved.
“Mebbe he be da one wid da sense, M’lud. He speeks da truth, we did no have anudder choice. You say he be a coward, but I seen da way he fight da Nor’men, he be no coward. He be the reason dat da city still be standin’, you should no be talkin’ down ta him when you were no here ta make da hard choices when dey came.” Grimme stood his ground and would not move to allow Nicodemus to pass. “I trust him a’ much a’ I trust you, M’Lud.”At this Nicodemus growled and drew his sword.
“Move aside, Sir Grimme, or would you allow this abomination to be the testament of your deeds?” Grimme flinched at the acidic use of his title more than the accusations that were flung at him, but he did not move. In a rage, Nicodemus struck out with his blade yet Grimme was the superior swordsman and nimbly stepped back out of range. Grimme twisted to the side and grabbed his lord’s wrist and pressed his thumb into the back of Nicodemus’s hand in such a way that it caused his fingers to go numb and drop the blade. Grimme kicked the weapon away and pushed Nicodemus back.
“You dare?! You are sworn to me and you dare to defy me in such a way as this?” Nicodemus’s voice was darkly quiet.
“He is right to do so.” A soothing voice spoke from behind Grimme and Lucas walked up behind her defender. “Do you have any idea what you sound like in these moments, Lord Nicodemus?” Startled by the sudden clarity that Lucas seemed to possess, Nicodemus’s rage was robbed of its impetus.
“You are aware of what you are doing?” Nicodemus’s words fell from his mouth at odd intervals making his words stumble.
“Yes, I know exactly what is happening at this moment, I have never been this aware since my travels with you long ago.”
“How is that? The last that I saw you, you were more in the next world than in this one. You spoke only of fire and death. When you were cogent you despaired at the inability of the wizards and mages in this company to destroy the Blade. What has changed?” Nicodemus’s voice gained momentum as he spoke and his shock was fading quickly.
“Purpose. Purpose has changed me. Before now I was lost in a haze of misery and self pity at the thought of the demonic hoard that was baying at our gates. I had visions of the torture I endured on our pilgrimage and I was lost to what I thought was an uncertain fate of torture and a gruesome death.”
“None of that has changed, the horde is now inside our gates and we have hours, maybe less before they are upon us. Your fate has not changed at all, your purpose remains the same.”
“No, now I know how I will die, and I know that my death will have a purpose. I will not have my existence be a simple futile gesture in an effort to stop the inevitable tide of Chaos. Now I will be able to spit in the eye of my enemy even as I descend into the abyss and I will take something from them as I go. The best part is that I will use their own power against them.”
“But what is the cost?” At these words, the confidence on Lucas’s face fell somewhat.
“That is the terrible sacrifice, and I regret what it will take from us. The ritual requires the sacrifice of four individuals of great renown and power. Their skulls will be placed at the base of Khorne’s throne and their spirits bound to his will for eternity. They will become demons. This sacrifice mixed with the appropriate incantations will open a portal anywhere within the realm of Khorne that will remain open for mere minutes. I will cast it so that it will open into the devil’s forge itself and will cast the blade within the molten fires therein. The unholy flames will destroy the artefact and we will be rid of it at last. Is that not correct, master elves?” Lucas stared past Nicodemus, he turned to see Daggon and Alred standing at the door, he had not even heard them approach.
“It would destroy the Blade, yes, but at what cost?” Alred’s face was drained of color, “Is it worth the damnation of four worthy souls? Who are to be the sacrifices?”
“I, Grimme, Lucas, and Xiomar have all volunteered,” Gregor responded.
“Absolutely not! I will not allow my brother to be given over to eternal torment in such a fashion!” Daggon’s voice brooked no argument.
“Is it not his own choice?” Gregor retorted.
“I forbid it!”
“Then what alternative do you offer?”
“You speak as if we are actually going to go through with this.” Nicodemus stepped in between the elf and his ward.
“Whether or not you give it your blessing, I plan on attempting the ritual no matter the cost.” Lucas stood calmly behind Grimme, her voice a mask under which rolling waves of terror rippled, yet it was solid and unwavering in its determination. Nicodemus’s face fell as Grimme nodded his agreement with her.
“I stay wid her.” The peasant knight would not budge.
“And I stand with them.” Gregor moved to stand with Grimme, and the world grew still in Nicodemus’s ears, his face aged years in those seconds.
“Alred! Does this ritual have any chance of success?” Daggon turned to the aged mage.
“If it does what she says it does, then yes I believe it will succeed. The problem is that we cannot know for sure until it is complete. But it is the most likely solution that we have yet to find, and our time for finding a better one is past.” A long sigh escaped Alred’s mouth.
“You sound as though you are advocating this foolishness.” Daggon could not believe what he was hearing, his eyes straining to detect some sign of denial from his old friend.
“What other choice do we have? We cannot take the Blade to Athel Loren, the Queen has forbidden it, and we cannot leave it here for those animals to take it. We must do something!” Alred could not meet his prince’s gaze, but he did not waver either. A silence spread out among the room that seemed to last for hours. Each of the occupants looked around the room at their companions earnestly, no one dared to speak. Eventually the silence was broken by the sounds of screaming and the crash of metal on metal coming from outside. Gregor strode swiftly to the window and looked out.
“They’ve broken through the eastern wall! They are coming this way.” He reported.
“How long until they arrive?” Nicodemus was glad for the change in topic, even if it was something as disastrous as that.
“We have minutes, maybe half an hour. Lucas, how long will the Ritual take?”
“About half an hour, if we start now. The sacrifices must take their places and not move throughout the Ritual. So we must make a decision now!” The lady moved to a podium where a book sat open on dark pages of skin that resembled human flesh more than animal.
“Wait! We have agreed on nothing! My brother will not be sacrificed for this madness.” Daggon practically screamed, but Lucas paid him no heed.
“Then find us a worthy sacrifice. One that has accomplished great deeds and renown, it cannot be any simple soldier. It must be someone who has caught the eye of the Gods, be they elven, human, or Chaos.” She said without looking up from the book.
“I will not sacrifice any of those under my command.” Daggon’s voice writhed with red hot anger. Alred put his hand on Daggon’s shoulder and shook his head.
“Do the sacrifices need to be willing?” Alred’s voice cut through Daggon’s anger. This caused Lucas to stop and look behind her at the old mage.
“Not precisely,” she responded.
“Then I have your replacement for Xiomar.” Alred strode quickly from the room.
“That still leaves us with two more sacrifices needed.” Nicodemus spoke quietly, his voice barely carrying over the growing sounds of battle outside.
“I thought you were against this!” Daggon turned on his human friend, Nicodemus ignored him.
“Why two?” Gregor asked “With Xiomar’s replacement the other three are ready and we can proceed.”
“No, I forbid you three from doing this, I have already seen enough suffering brought on by this blasted Blade, I will not see those that I love most damn themselves to Hell in this whimsical escapade.”
“You cannot stop us, though.” Gregor responded.
“Can’t I? You said that the sacrifices cannot move once the Ritual begins, right? I may not be able to stop all four of you, but I can pull you one by one from the circle and stop the process from succeeding, can I not?” At this Grimme moved to set himself between Nicodemus and the Ritual’s circle. “You don’t have time to fight me Grimme, not and still have enough time to finish the Ritual. They will be upon you before then and if we waste any more time we won’t have time enough to finish the Ritual before they arrive even with my cooperation. I forbid you three from being sacrifices. My requirements for my cooperation are simple, you three will leave and I will be one of the sacrifices along with the one that Daggon provides. We must find two more volunteers in the mean time.” Grimme looked at Gregor and Lucas, each of them nodded, although Gregor’s eyes glistened.
“You old fool! Why are you doing this?” He whispered
“The same reason you are: to save those that I love.” Nicodemus responded, slowly.
Alred arrived with two soldiers carrying a litter between them, following closely behind them came Sheila and her bodyguard of dwarven warriors. On the litter sat the bound form of Lianthur. When the traitorous elf’s eyes rested on the circle drawn on the ground his eyes grew wide and he stared at Lucas and Nicodemus and then back to Daggon and Alred. Some part of Daggon felt a grim satisfaction at this turn of events.
“Place him there, I want him to be the first sacrifice.” Daggon’s voice sounded sanguine and hollow in his own ears.
“Wha’s this aboot sacri’fices?” Sheila asked. Alred turned to face her.
“Mistress Sheila, we don’t have time to fully explain, but we have found a potential way that we can destroy the Blade, but it comes at a high cost. We must offer up four sacrifices in order to open a way into Khorne’s forge where we will cast the Blade and the Ruinous Powers themselves will destroy it.”
“Who’s ta be sacri’ficed, then?” The dwarf queried.
“That’s the conundrum,” Nicodemus interrupted, “ we have Daggon’s prisoner and I have volunteered, but we are lacking two more to make the process complete.”
“Are ye daft!?” Sheila exploded, “this is the wurs’ type o’ folly I’ve ever heard! Playin wit these kinda things! Ye’ll bring doon the whole of the Nor’ upon us!”
“What would you have us do, dwarf?” Daggon surprised himself by speaking, indeed the whole room seemed surprised. “The Chaos mongrels are at our door, we have no options. We cannot flee with the Blade, but we cannot leave it here for them to take. This is our only choice.” Sheila stared at the elven commander, her face pensive. She had grown to respect the elf over the past months that they had fought together, even if that respect would never be openly acknowledged. She recognized the sense that Daggon was saying, but something about this course of action did not sit well with her, sacrificing one of her own officers for this madness? Yet there was no denying the strength of the Blade, and if there was nothing else to be done about it, then they needed to take this chance. Despite her misgivings, she could not argue with the logic that the elf had presented.
“I dinnae like it, but I ken that we’re stuck twixt a rock an’ a ‘ard place,” the captain sighed and her shoulders slumped, “we’ll provide oor own, ifn’ the elves’ll do the same.”
“We will,” Daggon responded, sadness in his voice. The dwarf nodded at this and swept back out of the room to confer and make their selection.
“You didn’t tell them about…” Gregor began, but Daggon cut him off.
“We didn’t have time to argue the same argument we just had, I hate it as much as you, but we had no choice. We will go and decide who we will offer up and return shortly.”
“Wait!” Nicodemus walked over to the elven prince. “In case I don’t see you again, thank you for what you have done for my people. Don’t lose sight of the elf that you were at the beginning of all this, I think this world will be a sorrier place without him in it.” Daggon’s smile lacked any hint of mirth, his eyes showing a momentary sadness.
“I fear this world has forced it to become a sorrier place regardless of my temperament.” Daggon straightened “I will send some troops to help hold this position, and the rest will go to hold off the approaching horde against the entrance to the world roots while we evacuate your people. Farewell, friend.” With that the elf and the mage took their leave and were gone. Nicodemus stared after them for a few moments before turning back to the three of his charges still in the room.
“It is time you were leaving.” He commanded.
“I am casting the spell that will complete the ritual, therefore I am staying.” Lucas’s voice could have split rocks in two, and she remained hunched over the book on the pedestal.
“I no will leave yer side, M’lud, me men an’ I will stay ta keeps you safe.” Grimme strode to stand by Lucas “You will be needin’ da protection. You can no argue wid dat, I will no be part of da Ritual, but you can no ask me ta no stay by yer side in a time like dis.” Nicodemus made to argue, but stopped himself and nodded solemnly. Gregor made to move next to Grimme and offer a similar response but Nicodemus stopped him.
“Not you. Grimme is one thing and he has a point, but our people need you to get them to safety. You will take the Younglings and go to Athel Loren, keep safe our people and lead them to whatever fate they will have. That is my order to you as your lord and as your guardian.” Nicodemus spoke in a tone that stopped Gregor cold.
“That is not fair. How can you ask me to abandon you to this fate when it is one of my creating?”
“Lucas and I, we have ad our time in dis world, we seen dat which we wanna see and done dat we needed ta do. Ifn’ you stay here, you die. No body dat stays will be leavin’ here. You is young and have much ta do wid yor life.” Grimme smiled at the young knight.
“But I’m the one that allowed this whole thing to happen!” Gregor’s voice caught “Please don’t make me leave you here at the end.”
“You did well with the lot that was given you, Gregor, I cannot ask more from you than that.” Nicodemus stepped closer to his ward, a soft smile spread across his mouth and his eyes mirrored the sentiment as he placed his hand on Gregor’s shoulder. “You have made me proud, and I am sorry that I reacted as I did earlier. You made a difficult decision earlier, and even though this course of action will require so much of us, I think now that you have made the right choice. Now go. If you would honor me, then live and lead our people to safety. It is here that our paths will take different directions.” Tears fell down Gregor’s cheeks as he looked at his knight.
“But I will never see you again. How can I live knowing that I condemned you to an eternity of torment? I could barely stand the idea that I had done so with Lucas and Grimme, the only consolation was that I was willing to go with them! Now you take even that comfort from me?”
“You didn’t condemn me to anything, this is my choice. Now go, we don’t have time for these emotions. The enemy is at our door. Tell the Phoenix regiment to not let anyone pass, and guard the entrance to the tower with their lives. I don’t know if any of the other two armies will lend any aid to our defense, but if not it will have to be enough.” Gregor’s red eyes stared back at Nicodemus as he spoke. “You have to go. You must live through this. Your penance will be to lead our people and keep them safe. That is your life’s mission now, and you will never be released. Go, find what happiness you can, and live my boy.” Gregor nodded in acknowledgement and walked to the door, stopping only once to look back. “Go!” Nicodemus barked again and Gregor finally left the heavy door closing with an ominous boom behind him.
“Dat was kind o’ you M’Lud, ta take da blame fra’ his shoulders like dat.” Grimme smiled at his lord.
“He didn’t have much choice in the matter, and he was young. I wish it had come to a different end than this, but all the same. It seems that we have no choice. Besides, even though I don’t agree with this course of action, something needs to be done and I couldn’t have him weighed down with guilt for choosing this, not if he was to take care of my people like I know that he must. There is no one else to do so.” Nicodemus sighed and began removing his armor. “Tell Sir Guy to take up position downstairs with your men and guard the door. You should stay close. Position your archers on the roof so that they can give some support to the troops on the ground, the Phoenix regiment will need all the help they can get. You should stay close, and hopefully we can get some more help, I have a feeling that when that portal starts to open that we are going to see some otherwordly visitors coming through that could disrupt the Ritual. Do not let this happen. If we die in vain, then Aantar will get the sword and Chaos will be unstoppable. We cannot allow this.” Grimme nodded and walked out of the room to carry out his orders. Nicodemus walked over to Lucas and unsheathed his sword.
“I would not die to a headsman’s axe. If you would do me the honor of using my blade to make the killing strokes, I would be grateful.” Lucas turned and gave him a sad smile before taking the blade.
“I don’t know any comforting words that I could give you in this situation, I only hope that whatever consciousness you have after this is complete that you do not remember your time as a human, so as to make it easier in your torment.” Lucas reached a hand up and brushed Nicodemus’s cheek.
“Why would I want that? If anything my memories of you, and Gregor, and Grimme, and our times together, those will be the things that will be my comforts throughout eternity. I would not wish to forget them for anything.” Nicodemus smiled, taking Lucas’s hand from his face and kissing the back of it before returning it to her. With that, Nicodemus turned and strode to his position, smiling devilishly at the prone form of Lianthur. At least some of us are getting our just reward for our actions, he thought to himself. Lianthur’s prone form was not in a position to argue. He had been bound to the chopping block with strong cords and was unable to even shift, much less move, and his raspy voice didn’t have the volume to even attempt speaking over the din of battle outside.
The door swung open and a dwarf and elf stepped over the threshold. Nicodemus eyed them both.
“You were not who I expected that either of your commanders would send. You’ll do, take your places and let us begin.”

This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 2015/09/17 23:28:51


   
Made in us
Crazy Marauder Horseman







Chapter 14: At the Gates of Hell

Gregor reined his horse to a halt, the rest of the Youngling regiment fell in behind him. The young knight stared out across the ranks of the dwarf and elf alliance that surrounded him. It was an impressive sight with glistening elves and battleworn dwarves stretching the length of the walls that protected the city park behind them. Refugees were already streaming through the gates and into the passage provided through the World Roots. There were so many to evacuate, and already Gregor could hear the sounds of drums rolling towards him. Shouts in the distance became louder and more distinct, within minutes the advancing horde would be upon them. Gregor spied Daggon atop his dragon and nodded to the elven general. He could not see the dwarven captain but he knew that she was there along with her retinue within the dwarven ranks.

The ratmen were the first to appear. A scuttling horde of brown haired vermin, and in their midst a terrible brass bell with glowing, green runes etched into its surface. Emerald smoke emanated from the bell’s striker and atop the crude wooden frame stood a sorcerous vermin with curling ram's horns extending from behind its ears. Crackling lightning forming a ball around his fist. To their east flank a horde of Chaos cavalry appeared, stamping metallic juggernauts in their midst. To the west a great hulking monstrosity of ill-fitted rotting flesh and appendages stamped across the field, accompanied by a smaller creature of massed muscle and writhing tentacles, a swirling orb of eldritch energies spiralled on its back. Baying hounds, twisted and warped to become the stuff of nightmares, loped ahead of the main force. Armor clad brutes filled the streets and gripped murderous weapons in their hands. Blasphemous totems and standards dotted the slavering horde. A terrible lord atop a snarling manticore landed at the head of the army and in a silent gesture pointed his cruel blade at the massed ranks of men, elves, and dwarves and the northmen advanced.

First to speak were the cannons. Their thunderous voices spat molten shrapnel and leaden balls crushing through the endless ranks. A fist of rat ogres was the first to feel the effects as one of the dwarven organ guns emptied an entire salvo into the muscled mass of mutants, slaying one outright and laying another one very close to death. The cannons struck the great mutalith beast and tore through its thick skin, one cannon ripping clean through its ribs to explode out the other side. In a screeching wail of agony the beast fell to the ground before lying still, the vortex perched on its back shuddered and imploded in a burst of energy that lit the battlefield in an eerie purple glow. The vermin tide that was pushing the ominously silent bell forward were struck by several rounds of fire and more than a few of their number fell to the molten lead and bolts of both dwarven and elf make. This did nothing to dissuade the pressing ranks of Chaos and they continued to press forward.

In response to the enemy salvos, great Hellcannons at the back of the northlander ranks rang out their own tortured screams, sending nightmare ordnance into the massed ranks of the alliance. The reaped a savage toll on the soldiers there, but no dwarf or elf broke ranks despite the unearthly sounds or the devilish explosions that rained down on them. A mad sorcerer astride a demonic beast cackled and teleported his unit of knights to the far right flank of the dwarven lines, Lining up a perfect charge into the flanks of a squad of miners who barely had time to reorganize themselves before the new threat was in their midst. Each of the demonic warriors was a maelstrom of sharp edges and precision cuts that laid low a dwarf with every strike. In response the dwarfs were unable to fell even a single knight and in the confusion their fear overtook them and they fled down the line of other dwarves causing confusion and disorientation amongst the close ranks. More than a few of the miners tripped over their comrades and fell, impaling themselves on the massive two handed picks they wielded or trampling each other in their haste to flee.

Molten comets fell from the skies, their blood-red aura casting deathly shades that clashed with the eerie green pulsations of the skaven’s screaming bell. Most of these meteors fell with little effect, but several eagles that were soaring above the battlefield were crushed under the sanguine missiles. One rather large missile crushed a hovering gyrocopter in a flash of blinding fire and angry red light. Another crushed the crew manning a bolt thrower on one of the eastern towers. Bloody gore rained down with the rocky missiles and soon the entire field was awash with crimson rivers. Gregor waited in anticipation and scrubbed the unnerving precipitation from his eyes. Across the way the skaven caster wove the strands of a spell that whipped the driving rain into a howling crescendo. Several of the hovering gyrocopters and eagles that remained from the gory comets were forced to land amidst the threatening gale, their feathers drenched in blood or rotors clogged with gore. Even Daggon’s dragon was forced to land, unable to combat the fierce winds. Gregor watched as another comet struck a nearby unit of dwarves, killing several and wounding others. Things were not going well.

Then came the ominous tolling of the bell.

* * * * *

Rolling thunder trembled throughout the increasingly claustrophobic room where the Ritual was being prepared, bloody rain splattered against the stained windows to darken the shrinking space. Crask, a dwarven warrior who had proven his mettle in battle on countless occasions in this campaign was kneeling besides Elion, an elven mage who had grasped on to the darker winds of magic to summon the spirits of the dead in a continuing effort to stave off the skaven attacks. Both were worthy sacrifices and beside them was Nicodemus and Lianthur. One a noble lord, the other a treacherous mage.

The sounds of battle were growing louder. Grimme looked out an open window to see the crimson stone causeway that led to the entrance of the tower and saw the Phoenix troop charge into the waiting arms of some vile plague kings. The rotten nobility was quickly dismantling the old knights in a show of butchery that made a visceral impression even amidst the gory downpour.

“It be best dat we hurry” Grimme said as he turned from the window and took his place beside Aire the Loremaster who had come to help defend Lucas during the Ritual. The lady took her place beside Lianthur and nodded. Grimme returned the nod and stepped into the middle of the circle with Aire with their swords drawn. Lianthur squirmed and cried out in hoarse whispers that were lost amidst the ambient noise. Lucas began the incantation.

“O Bloody God, from whom all glory flows! Accept this unholy sacrament in bloody token! Bring forth the way to your Brass Throne and make clear all those who would oppose your great and terrible wrath! Accept this skull of one who serves the prideful Reveller and cast his soul to your eternal entertainment and castigation!” With that Lucas raised Nicodemus’s sword and stepped closer to Lianthur’s prone form. His eyes were wide and his mouth repeated over and over the words “Please” and “No” but they were silent and would have availed him nothing even were they to have any volume. Raising the blade high Lucas looked straight into the traitorous elf’s eyes as she let fall the sword with expert precision.

“Blood for the Blood God,” she cried. “Skulls for the Skull Throne!” With all the weight of her training that was done in what seemed like another life, the blade cut cleanly through the vertebrae in Lianthur’s neck and his head tumbled onto the ground in a gory spray of red. Almost instantly the skin and hair caught fire and in a brilliant blaze fire licked at the bloody trophy. In an instant the flames were gone and all that remained was a blackened skull which then crumbled into ash and dissipated upon a hot wind that had not originated from any window. Lucas watched this and nodded tightly, her jaw gripping her teeth together in a grim expression. She walked to stand beside the dwarf.

* * * * *

Ulfmar Eligibane stared across at the horde of approaching marauders. Their bare chests were a maze of intricate tattoos and each of them had deep crimson stenciled onto their knuckles in a permanents representation of blood on their hands. Ulfmar reached up and stroked the huge orange crest that crowned his shaven scalp. Grabbing his twin axes he uttered a small prayer to his ancestors that they might watch his final moments the dwarf charged towards the swarm of northmen.

Kholer the Furious watched through a red veil as the dwarf ran at his host of clansmen. Raising his greataxe high above his head, the Khornate champion screamed out his challenge to the approaching slayer and charged out ahead of his soldiers in order to claim the prized skull that had so willingly offered itself up to him. Ulfmar himself began to froth as the hulking mass of the chieftain raced towards him, a bloody frenzy between two mighty warriors that only increased the murderous vision of the sanguine marauders that swarmed around the two combatants. As bloodthirsty as they were, Kholer’s clansmen would not dare to deny him the honor of slaying the dwarf himself, so they formed a heaving circle around them and waited for the blood to flow, all the while chanting their blasphemous prayers to their berzerker god.

Ulfmar struck first. Bringing his twin axes up in a vicious pair of strokes that were meant to gut his opponent in one fell swoop, but Kholer’s reactions were too quick. The barbarian caught both blades with his own axe and pressed back against the mound of muscled dwarf. Ulfmar was strong, however, and the two fighters simply stood there, each one fighting for dominance in the test of strength that neither could have. Finally the dwarf dropped his shoulder and spun past the bloody chieftain. As he whirled he brought out one of his axes and was satisfied when his opponent grunted in pain. Coming to a stop, Ulfmar looked behind him to see a bloody gash across Kholer’s calf. The northman roared and charged the smirking dwarf, his clansmen cheering him on. Ulfmar watched as Kholer raised his two handed axe and brought it down with shattering force. Thinking to deflect the blow Ulfmar angled his haft in an effort divert the crushing energy behind Kholer’s stroke. When the blow landed, Ulfmar grunted as the axe, instead of glancing off, instead buried itself deep into the wood of Ulfmar’s weapon. Grunting with the exertion of holding the blade at bay, the dwarf brought his off hand weapon up in a desperate swing. Kholer tried to retreat but he refused to let go of his weapon that was firmly lodged in his opponent’s haft. At the last second he tore free and Ulfmar’s blow flew wide. The dwarf snarled and pressed his advantage, quickly closing the difference between him and the bloody chieftain. During a series of quick blows Ulfmar’s damaged weapon splintered and the axe head flew into the teeming masses around them, embedding itself in the skull of some hapless berzerker. Ulfmar was left with his off hand axe and a splintered stake, but was undaunted. Kholer bellowed an inhuman curse at the dwarf and kicked out with his foot. The dwarf felt the blow land in his stomach and coughed as the air escaped his lungs in a sudden whoosh of force. The dwarf was winded but he knew an opportunity when he saw it and so rammed his splintered axe haft into Kholer’s exposed leg driving a stake several inches into his thigh. Kholer let out another animalistic cry and fell to his knees. Ulfmar capitalized on this moment to bring down his own powerful overhead stroke. Kholer raised his own axe haft to block the blow but northman weaponry is nothing in comparison to dwarven craftsmanship. Ulfmar’s axe cut straight through the wooden haft and buried itself several inches into Kholer’s chest. Kholer hacked in surprise and blood drained out of his mouth and through the grate of his helmet. For a moment Ulfmar simply stared at his felled opponent, then he pulled his axe free and in one swift, vicious movement he cut Kholer’s head from his shoulders.

As the corpse toppled to the ground, Ulfmar reached down and picked up the now shortened axe that Kholer had been using and gripped it in his off-hand, the balance wasn’t right but it would have to do. Ulfmar grinned madly and allowed his crazed gaze to roam over the crazed Khorne worshippers around him. Their chieftain’s blood had only incensed them even further. Good, Ulfmar thought I’d ‘ate ta have it dun a the hands o’ a bunch o terrified ninnies. With that he charged into the ranks of the waiting marauders. In the first seconds he managed to cleave one skull cleanly in two and an upward slice gouged one foe from his groin to his navel, he went down in a fountain of blood. Rounding, he stuck out and caught another in the chest, the cracking of his ribs and the gushing of blood confirmed his fate to the lone dwarf. One of the warriors took a swing at Ulfmar, but the dwarf parried it aside. Several more blows descended and the slayer did his best to dodge or block them all, but there were too many. Again and again the crude weapons descended. A spiked cudgel struck Ulfmar’s knee and he gritted his teeth as he felt the bones grind and shatter. The dwarf lashed out, killing his attacker, but that only opened him up to a cruel axe that fell on his exposed shoulder. The dwarf didn’t have time to stagger before a war spike embedded itself in his belly and finally a great axe whistled through the air to cleave through half of the dwarf’s bulging neck. It took several more swings to finish the job.

* * * * *

Across the battlefield, the dark tolling of the skaven bell grew to a terrifying crescendo. The vibrations from the dreadful sound caused the beams to crack and the foundations to crumble of any nearby buildings and in a terrible crash of rubble and destruction the entire city block around the bell collapsed. Hollering warriors began to charge across the fresh ruins of the city in an effort to close with their opponents. Once again the dwarven cannons fired their deathly rain. One cannonball struck the Chaos lord’s mount, slaying the manticore outright and throwing the armored figure to the ground. With a lithe grace that defied the heavy wardrobe he bore, the trained killer caught himself without staggering and slowly stood before continue his sprinted advance towards the enemy lines.

A Frostheart Phoenix crashed into the exposed flanks of the murderous knights that had just dispatched the dwarven miners. The screeching cries and raking talons did nothing to harm the trained pillagers and they struck back with merciless abandon, one managing to cut a score across the sacred bird’s claw. The bone-numbing cold did little to impede their efforts and they assaulted the bird with reckless abandon. Behind this combat, Skullcrushers atop their juggernauts wrought a bloody ruin amongst a squad of elven spearmen. Alred was among their ranks and fought desperately to preserve the elven conscripts with hastily chanted enchantments and barked commands. The champion of the crimson-armored brutes issued forth a challenge and the shaking lieutenant of the spearmen answered by moving forward to confront the monstrosity. It was a brave gesture, but ultimately foolish as the juggernaut brutally snapped out with its brass fangs and tore the elf’s larynx from his throat. Before he could fall the warrior atop the metal beast reached out and caught the falling soldier and in one fell swipe removed his head from his shoulders, holding it aloft so that his hot blood might splatter on him and the elven spearmen alike, feeding one’s bloodlust and terrifying the others. Yet still the spearmen held even after rank by rank they were devoured by the brass demons and their bloody riders. Alred cursed the crimson riders and stepped forward to answer the champion’s next challenge.

The armored behemoth laughed as the frail old wizard raised his blade and ran at the gore-slicked warrior. With a contemptuous swipe the skullcrusher’s axe flashed down at Alred who barely managed to catch the axe with his own sword. Without pausing, the warrior reversed his axe and brought it around to gouge a deep cut in the wizard’s side. The effect was as instantaneous as it was bloody, Alred fell to the ground, blood welling out of the hole in the side of his chest and gurgling out of his throat. The great brass juggernaut reared up as its rider let out a bout of evil laughter. With his vision growing dimmer, Alred strugged to focus as he clutched his gaping wound. Moving as quickly as his leaden limbs would allow him he reached out and traced three very distinct but foreign runes on the metal monster before him using his own blood. He slurred out a curse in the elder tongue and watched as fire erupted from within his opponent’s armor. The flames built until they began to blacken the red armor from within. Screams echoed within the suit of armor and the beast began to pool into a melted puddle of molten brass. Alred kept his eyes fixed on his defeated foe until the screams subsided before falling on his side, his lifeblood forming a murky lake around him.

* * * * *

A pale-skinned sorcerer began tracing sensuous lines in the air and muttering blasphemous incantations as he eyed the draconic mount of the elven prince across the field. Daggon’s mind clouded with thoughts of forbidden pleasure. He found himself in his mind’s eye with his hands clamped firmly around Lianthur’s throat. He revelled in the terror that he saw in that traitor’s eyes as he clawed ineffectively in an effort to throw off his attacker’s assaults. Daggon grinned as he slid a cruel looking dagger out of its sheath and pressed it to Lianthur’s belly and applied ever more pressure until he felt the warm liquid of Lianthur’s lifeblood flowing over his hands and watched the life flicker out of his eyes. As soon as that happened Daggon cast the traitor’s body aside and turned to find another Lianthur prone before him, begging for his life. Daggon picked him up by the hair of his head and took the same dagger he had just used and placed it at the snake’s throat. While these violent imaginings circled in Daggon’s mind a wave of ratmen continued to advance up the center street towards the park where the refugees were still evacuating.

Gregor glanced at the elven prince, waiting for the dragon to advance and begin the work of death amongst the ranks of the advancing ratmen, but Daggon remained where he was. The skaven were getting closer, soon they would be upon Gregor and his men. Shaking his head, Gregor unsheathed his sword and held it high aloft crying aloud as he did so and waving Nicodemus’s blessed standard he screamed for the charge. In a surge of unified motion, the knights of the Youngling regiment galloped towards the press of clanrats pushing the nefarious bell forward. With a fleshy crunch the first of the chargers crushed the vermin beneath their steel-shod hooves. Gregor’s sword cleaved one rat’s skull in twain before rounding to slice an arm off another and in a final sweep managing to cut open the throat of another that was preparing to leap at another of the knights in the column. Gregor looked to his side and saw Trinidad run his lance through two of the skittering creatures at the same time. Gregor gave a grim smile, his eyes reflecting no mirth and continued hacking towards the vermin creature atop the bell but was denied the honor. The creature howled an incantation but before it could leave his lips a sudden burst of power resonated from the bell and the cackling energy that coursed out of the vermin’s body burst into a green flame, encasing the creature in a fiery incandescence. It screamed an inhuman howl before a flash of light burst out, momentary blinding all in the vicinity, when it faded the rat sorcerer was gone.

Gregor turned his attention to the giant rat ogre that was helping to push the bell forward. The behemoth swung a massive fist at the young knight’s head who managed to duck under the blow and brought his own blade up in a vicious thrust that took the creature in its putrid armpit, sinking the blade up to its hilt. The monstrosity cried out in surprise as it topple to the ground, its stupid visage gone slack as death claimed its features. Gregor looked around to see how the regiment was faring. All around him lay the bodies of slain rats and only one of his knights had fallen in the assault. Gregor raised the standard in his hand and cried out:

“For Lord Nicodemus! For our slain brothers! And for our beloved Lady!” His knights cheered and plunged further into the vermin ranks. From the shadows of a freshly destroyed building the lone figure of the recently unmounted Chaos lord emerged and bolted his way into the fray. Three knights fell beneath his flurry of blows before Gregor had even noticed his presence. Turning, the standard bearer prepared to charge this new threat. The Chaos lord bellowed a challenge to any who would face him and before Gregor could answer a lone shape charged forward, his lance levelled at the black breastplate worn by his challenger.

“Trinidad! No!” Gregor cried. The northland warrior stood his ground before the relentless charge of the young gallant as he levelled his lance at his chest. At the last moment the armored figure twisted to the side, simultaneously grabbing hold of the lance and twisting while hacking with his other hand to take Trinidad’s horse at the knees. The charger screamed in pain as the magical blade cut a bloody stream through its legs. Trinidad went flying when the Chaos follower twisted the lance and landed heavily amidst the bloody mud of the battlefield. Trinidad recovered quickly and twisted to his feet just in time to parry a hard blow aimed at his head. Blow after blow struck at the young warrior yet he somehow miraculously staved off each one, if only just.

The Chaos lord was so concentrated on the prize of Trinidad’s skull that he did not watch his footing and slid forward ever so slightly which gave the young knight an opening. With a cry of victory, the young gallant pressed his advantage and struck at his opponent’s exposed knee. The northman was too slow to parry the blow and Trinidad’s blade struck deep into his thigh where the blade lodged against the bone. For a moment, time seemed to stand still and the Chaos general looked down at the blade protruding from his leg, then his gaze moved up to rest on Trinidad. Without a sound the northman’s hand shot out to grasp around the Bretonnian’s throat. Trinidad’s voice came in a wheezed gasp as he struggled against the iron grip that was slowly crushing the air from his throat. Gregor saw what was coming too late, even as he tried to fight his way to his friend’s side. The warlord reached up with his other hand and ripped Trinidad’s helm from his head, exposing the knight’s face to the bloody rain. Trinidad’s eyes were wide as he struggled to breathe. Reaching to his waist he pulled free a dagger plunged it into his assailant’s forearm. A wheezing sound that could almost be mistaken for a chuckle escaped the northman’s helm before he reached up and pulled the dagger free. He considered the blade for half a second, then looked up into Trinidad’s face as he thrust the blade into his victim’s chest.

“No!” Gregor screamed. Trinidad’s mouth hung open in shock for a few moments, blood dribbling from the corners of his mouth before his hands fell to his side and his body went limp. The black-clad warrior didn’t even spare a moment to relish in this kill and instead tossed the corpse aside, searching for a new victim. Gregor hacked down the last ratman standing between him and the killer before him. Snarling, he charged...

* * * * *

As soon as Lianthur’s head had parted with his shoulders a swirling vortex had split the far wall of the tower room. Lucas stepped back in order to avoid the arterial spray from the first victim. With a deft flick of her wrist she flicked the remaining blood off of the blade onto the ground.

“Sir Grimme, watch the portal! Khorne hates wizards and any attempt to magically open a portal into his realm is bound to be met with resistance!” Even as she spoke the horned visage of a crimson-skinned demon stepped out of the portal. In its hands was held a cruel blade that seemed to twist and absorb the light around it. Two other such creatures stepped forward as well of a similar likeness. Their legs bent back like those of goats, but their skin was leathery in appearance, as if from some type of reptile. Squirming tongues writhed out of mouths crowned with yellow teeth, and eyes of utter darkness stared out of baleful pits at the prizes they were to claim. Nodding to the loremaster, Grimme stepped forward to fight the first of the demons. The creature hissed at him and rushed to meet him. Aire took the other two and steel met daemonblade in a horrendous clash that jarred air around them. The dwarf warrior looked ready to rise to his feet.

“No! Do not move! If you leave that spot the Ritual will be interrupted!” Lucas cried out, pointing to Crask. The dwarf scowled but settled back onto his knees. Lucas moved quickly to stand beside him. Behind her Grimme spitted one of the bloody demons through its chest, it disintegrated into ash before the corpse hit the floor. Aire had likewise dispatched one of the other demons in a quick slicing motion that removed its head and was quickly finishing up the second as Lucas began to speak.

“Oh thou who sits upon the throne of skulls, hear this our prayer. We devote the head of this son of Grungni, one of thine ancient foes. His axe has taken the skulls of thy warriors in the past and has spilt their blood in unknown homage to thee!” At this the dwarf stirred and made as if to protest, but Lucas struck him with her fist to silence him and continued as if there had been no interruption. “For it matters not from whence the blood doth flow, so long as it does flow. Therefore, we dedicate this warrior’s skull to thee.” Once again she raised the blood-stained blade that Nicodemus had given her.

“Blood for the Blood God! Skulls for the Skull Throne!” The blade fell in a red arc.

* * * * *

Outside, Aantar watched as the vile plague kings finished off the last of the old knights who had barred them entrance into the tower. Behind the dying knights the cohort of Grail companions was readying themselves to charge over the corpses of their comrades and charge into the followers of Nurgle before them. Aantar sighed impatiently and flexed his wings, taking to the sky he flew like a bolt over the heads of the dying warriors and the regiment of disease ridden nobility to land amidst the unit of holy warriors behind them. Aantar could feel the energies surging about him and knew that time was growing short. He could sense the fabric of reality being parted and knew that his prize was in danger of being denied him. Screaming in fury, the demon prince lifted Sir Osric from his horse and, twisting sharply, tore his head from his body and threw the remains into the remaining knights. They held in their resolve and continued to press against the demonic creature before them. While brave, their gesture was short lived as Aantar swept his blade out and slew two more before the Nurgle worshippers arrived at his side to end the fight in a violent, but quick way, overwhelming the righteous knights in a fury of rusted cleavers and chipped axes.

“I am coming for you Nicodemus! You will not escape me! You promised, you coward!” Aantar cried out from behind his golden mask and again stretched his wings, launching himself high, he landed on the roof amidst the cowering forms of the peasant archers that had attempted to shoot him from the air. Their pathetic missiles had yet to even scratch his fate-forged scales. Aantar grabbed the two closest to him and threw them from their tower edge. Their screams cut short by the sudden crack of bones crunching against wet earth far below. Despite their fear, the archers huddled together to bar the demon prince entrance to the room below where the Ritual was taking place. Screaming with rage, Aantar reached forward to take another victim,

* * * * *

Gregor spurred his horse into a charging gallop, levelling his sword at the warrior in black plate before him. Just as before with Trinidad, the northman waited until the very last second before leaping to the side. Gregor had anticipated this, however, and adjusted his blade so that it landed a hard blow against his opponent’s helm. The strike hit with such force that the helm flew off its owner’s head and the warrior staggered to his knees. A horrid visage spat blood on the ground and raised its gaze to stare balefully at the knight who had struck a true blow. Gregor met the bloodshot gaze of his opponent with a hateful stare of his own before charging back at him. The deformed warrior’s pale lips split into a vile grin, exposing sharp, filed teeth. Instead of waiting for the charging knight to reach him, he sprinted and leapt up to tackle Gregor out of his saddle. There was a moment where they seemed to be flying before the combined weight of his armor and his attacker on top of him crushed the breath from his lungs.

Eschewing his blade, the crazed northman tore Gregor’s helm from his head and sunk his teeth into his exposed cheek, tearing a great bloody chunk from his face before screaming into the sky and devouring the grisly gobbet. Gregor gasped both from lack of breath and from pain. In a vain effort, the young knight stabbed upwards with his sword. But the warrior was too close and the sword was at an awkward angle. The Chaos lord batted the blade aside with contemptuous ease and then smiled down at Gregor with eyes wide in anticipation. Gregor’s hand dropped his sword and grasped for something, anything that could save him. The northman casually pinned Gregor’s head to the ground and in a sultry manner that could have been mistaken for a lover’s caress in any other situation twitched back Gregor’s chainmail to reveal his throat. His mouth opened wide to again show his terrible serrated teeth. It was at this moment that Gregor’s hand closed around a hilt and in a desperate last effort thrust upwards toward the gaping maw before him and braced himself for the feeling of those sharp teeth to close around his throat.

The feeling never came.

Gregor opened his eyes and found himself holding a dagger that had lodged itself in the crazed Chaos worshippers warped smile. The blade had thrust up through the roof of his mouth and into his brain. Some part of Gregor vaguely recognized the blade as that belonging to Trinidad. His cheek throbbed and he knew that infection was sure to set in. These things raced through his mind as he reeled in shock from his brush with death. Slowly he pushed the body of his would be killer off him and staggered to his feet. The battle raged in the ruined streets all around him, yet Gregor found himself in a rare pocket amidst all the fighting. Looking forward he saw the heavy plate-armored figures of the more seasoned Chaos warriors approaching. In the sky green lightning streaked towards the tight shield walls of the huddled dwarfs at the base of the walls. Gregor watched as the artillery on the ramparts answered in kind, showering molten lead down upon the attackers and listening to the screams of agony as the dying cried their curses into the crimson skies. Hellish ordnance filled the air with blue and red fire blossoms, fuelled by magic and the tortured screams of victims. Gregor staggered forward in a daze. He looked about for his sword and mount. Both had escaped him. He looked about as a rising panic filled his chest. He tripped over something and fell forward on his face. Struggling to sit up he discovered that he had tripped over the bodies of his former unit. Bite marks and rusted blades told a grisly story of the Youngling’s demise. Several of the ratmen’s corpses were strewn about the ground, and the bell had been dismantled and its pieces strewn across the cobblestones, its thunderous tones finally silenced. Gregor stared at the body of his former comrades, something blocking him from comprehending the sight before his eyes. He felt tired, oh so tired, as if he could barely keep his eyes open. He would rest here for a bit, and then he would get up and find his men. Yes, that was what he would do. All he needed was some rest and he would rejoin the fighting….

* * * * *

“Der be summat on de roof.” Grimme looked over at the loremaster “Yo steh heer, I go up der and keep whatevah be up der busy while yous’ finish da Rich’ool.” Grimme looked at Nicodemus, whose eyes were twisted into a strained expression. Finally the old Bretonnian knight nodded to his friend, who walked over to the stairs leading up to the roof.

Taking a deep breath, Grimme burst through the trapdoor onto the roof while bellowing a challenge to the blue skinned demon that awaited him there.

“Back ya demun!” Grimme’s practiced eye, paired with Aantar’s surprise allowed him to score two direct hits onto the demon’s chest. The point of his sword scored deep into his breast and Aantar screamed in pain. Aantar struck out with his sword and Grimme ducked beneath the blow, throwing one of his own as he came up. Aantar barely managed to catch the blade before it sliced through his calf. Seething with frustration at again being denied his prize, the demon prince lunged, this time aiming for the peasant knight’s chest. Grimme used the demon’s own momentum against him and in a deft parry managed to throw the giant creature from the roof of the tower, all the while disarming him. The demon blade flew off into the bloody knight. The crimson rain continued to fall and Aantar screamed his rage into the gore-stained skies. He stretched his wings out and caught an updraft which carried him back around to the top of the tower. Levelling himself at the lone figure standing on the roof, Aantar pitched into a dive, his long claws extended like the tips of some twisted grasping spears. Grimme waited until the last possible moment before leaping to the side, but even so he was not fast enough. He struck down with his blade and struck Aantar’s outstretched wing with a crippling blow, yet even as his blade struck down something strange happened. It was as if time reversed itself and instead of landing the strike, Grimme’s blade passed harmlessly through the limb to strike the stones below it. Aantar’s blow, however, did not miss its intended target and Grimme was thrown to the ground as the demon’s claws tore his leg apart from below his knee. Aantar’s momentum carried him past the top of the tower and he climbed further up into the sky. Grimme stared at the bloody stump of his leg in shock before turning to watch Aantar’s climb. With his feathered wings spread out to their full span, Aantar seemed to float in midair and for a moment. Blood dripped from the tips of the quills in a terrifying parody of an angelic presence. Red light glinted off his golden mask to form a demonic halo around his horned head

* * * * *

Inside of the tower, Lucas hurried over to stand beside Elion, the second to last sacrifice. Demons had again erupted out of the portal with the last sacrifice and Aire was busy fending them off of the damsel’s flank while she performed the necessary rites.

“Mighty Khorne, hear my plea! Accept this cowardly sorcerer who seeks to steal skulls from thy throne and return them to the land of the living to do his foul bidding! I condemn his soul to thine eternal damnation and dedicate his skull to thy throne, there to lie until the end of eternity!” She again raised Nicodemus’s sword above her head, her voice cold and taught.

“Blood for the Blood God! Skulls for the Skull Throne!” The sword descended.

* * * * *

Grimme cast about for his weapon, fingers scrabbling madly over the gore slicked stone. Above him, Aantar had finally reached the apex of his descent and begun to plummet towards the wounded knight. Pain tore at the edges of his sanity and Grimme could swear that he still felt his leg below the knee, yet when he tried to use it that only made the pain worse and he ended up flailing more than moving. Grimme was getting light headed and he rolled onto his back. He was so tired… so very tired. Looking into the red sky, Grimme watched the blue demon’s shape grow bigger as gravity brought him closer. Grimme’s hands fumbled, his fingers shaking as they tried to grasp something, anything.
Aantar watched the dying mortal below him with a devilish delight. He drew on the suffering his master had caused and breathed in the havoc around him like a fine wine. Time slowed to a crawl as he prepared his final descent, He flexed his wings and aimed the points of his outstretched claws in an almost lazy fashion. Below him, Grimme’s fingers closed around something long and wooden. Aantar was nearly on top of him. Heaving with the last of his strength, Grimme brought a crude spear out of the bloody muck, a spear much like he had wielded in his days as a man-at-arms. At the last second Aantar recognized what the object was, but was unable to stop his momentum. He crashed into the roof of the tower, collapsing the section were Grimme lay already dead but with a grip that not only death could loosen on the shaft of a spear that had run through Aantar’s stomach and burst out the other side.

   
Made in us
Crazy Marauder Horseman







So, we're coming to the end of a rather long road. If anyone is giving this more than a passing glance every so often, I want to say thank you for toughing it out. I know reading these really long walls of text can be difficult, but hopefully you found the story interesting.

I think if I were to try and polish this up to actually publishing-worthy material (which I'm not as I know this is just a batch of fanfiction and I appreciate it for what it's worth) I would add in the battles that I just skip over in the beginning (it was too hard to keep up with the pace our gaming group was going to be able to crank out some 10-20 pages a week). I would also try and work in some more background into what was going on so that someone who isn't familiar with the ET could enjoy it as well. All in all I have been pretty happy with the story, and should anyone happen to read through it at a later date, hopefully you'll enjoy it as well.

   
Made in us
Crazy Marauder Horseman







Chapter 15: It All Came Tumbling Down
Daggon raised a cruelly curved razor and sliced another thin wedge of skin from off the ridge of Lianthur’s nose. Something urged him to taste the piece of skin. Lianthur’s screams were a melodious tune in Daggon’s ears and he stared at the cut of flesh in his hands. Revulsion mixed with desire and the elf prince’s vision swam. What had he been doing? He had felt it so very important… He was having a hard time remembering how Lianthur had come to be here, he was supposed to be in the tower… There had been something else, what was he doing? Daggon’s mind seemed to groan under the effort. Lianthur’s face shuddered and the vision began to blur. Daggon finally looked around him and saw the bloody battlefield revealed around him.
With a sudden snap of his head, the oily residue of the unclean vision fell from his eyes and Daggon remembered where he was and what he had been doing. He looked down and saw Gregor sitting amidst a pile of corpses, among them lay the remains of the Youngling regiment slain to a man, as well as a veritable tide of vermin bodies. The elf prince looked to his left and saw the advancing wave of cavalry that had threatened their flanks what seemed like mere moments before. To his right Daggon saw a huge mass of rotting and diseased flesh making its way towards him and coming up the center of the field was another wave of armor-clad northmen. Daggon bellowed orders at his column of Silver Helms, directing them to charge the flank of warriors coming up the middle. Daggon could not ignore the monstrosity threatening his right flank and so he spurred Archaiadynami to flight and charged against the great beast that lumbered its way gleefully towards the mighty pair. The movement took Daggon out of the Slaaneshi’s sight and thus denied him the opportunity to recapture the prince in another pleasure dream and the frustration of that realization caused him to miss an important hand motion, causing the spell to rebound back on himself. The sorcerer sat down with a stupid smile on his face as he dreamed of his own private harem and the banquets he would have there. He did not even move when a unit of Khornate warriors charged over him, and his smile didn’t even leave his face long after his spirit had fled from their stomping feet as they trod upon him time after time.
Archaiadynami gained altitude above the giant creature before him, his great leathery wings blotting out the red sun above him and the spattering droplets of the blood rain pouring off his wings and staining the white robes of his rider’s garments gave them a terrible visage indeed. Daggon screamed his defiance at the creation of Nurgle that sat before him as his mount began its ominous descent. Archaiadynami spread his claws wide in preparation and with the force of a cannonball he impacted with the creature’s side, talons digging deep and ripping out great swathes of rotting flesh. The creature did not seem to even notice the pain and instead swung a huge tentacle swept around to lash Archaiadynami across his back. The dragon screamed in pain as bones crunched beneath the terrible blow. Daggon thrust his lance tip towards the gruesome face that seemed to protrude from the muck and bodily filth surrounding its hunched shoulders. The creature laughed as the lance glanced off its skull and embedded deep in the spongy flesh of its chest, vile spittle splashing from the monstrosity’s mirth onto Daggon’s armor, leaving a hissing mark wherever it landed. Claws from the abomination’s other hand flashed out with surprising speed and narrowly missed the prince’s head as he leaned back in the saddle, yet it tore the lance out of his hands and it was spent spinning to the ground far below.
Archaiadynami pushed off the beast’s side and flew up to make another pass while Daggon drew his sword. The monster grinned a ragged smile that dripped bile poison from its massive tusks. As the dragon came closer, his opponent lowered his shoulder which was encrusted with bony spikes, and charged. Archaiadynami was caught off guard by this tactic and twisted to avoid the collision narrowly missing the bulk of the impact but a large horn protruding from the top of the creature’s back cut a deep gash down the dragon’s side before breaking off with a rotten crack. Banking sharply, Daggon pushed his mount to greater speed and collided with the monster’s back, Archaiadynami digging his claws into the exposed flesh there and at Daggon’s command arched its neck back and blasted a great column of fire that washed over the creature’s shoulders, neck and head. At last this brought a scream of pain from their foe. Daggon pressed the advantage and guided his draconic steed to clamp his powerful jaws around the base of the skull and began pulling. The monster’s screams grew more feverish and he tried to reach behind him with his massive fist to try and claw the dragon from his back. The whip-like tentacle lashed behind him and managed to slice across Daggon’s face, cutting him across the bridge of his nose and causing him to cry out in pain, but the damage was mostly superficial and the prince would not relent. Archaiadynami applied greater and greater amounts of pressure on the abomination’s spine while its attacks became more and more frantic in nature until finally with a titanic snap, the dragon pulled the monster’s head free and tossed the gory trophy to the ground, bellowing his defiance at the oncoming horde. The mountain of dead and rotten flesh sank slowly to its knees and tumbled to the ground in an earth shaking thud. Daggon took to the skies yet again, looking for his next target.
* * * * *
Crumbled stone and debris rained down on the Ritual playing out below where Aantar and Grimme had fallen. Miraculously none of the Ritual was harmed. Aire didn’t even flinch and instead finished off the last of the bloodletter demons still in the room. Aantar and Grimme’s bodies had fallen to the ground only to be covered by falling stone and mortar. Lucas looked around to confirm that the Ritual remained uninterrupted before moving over to offer up the final sacrifice. A dusty silence that was interrupted only by the muted noises of battle outside was all that surrounded the trio still left standing, the swirling portal hissed and made a sound similar to rushing wind but was otherwise silent. Demon blood pooled on the ground, while the demons dissipated back into the aether upon death, their blood was the only testament to the pile of death that Aire had dealt while protecting Lucas.
The damsel stood over her lord and stared down at him. Nicodemus looked up as she hesitated and gave a small smile that did not touch his eyes.
“Come, let’s do it and be done. The Blade must be destroyed and I can think of no better way my death might serve our people.” With that, Nicodemus bowed his head in order to expose his neck to the coming blow. Lucas nodded and began the incantation.
“Oh thou brazen deity who seeks the blood of all men, hear this and know our sacrifice is absolute.” Lucas produced a strange looking dagger and continued her blasphemous prayer. “I dedicate this last sacrifice to thee, my blood boils and my life I give freely to thee and thine eternal damnation so that others may enter thy presence and bask in thine glory!” Nicodemus’s head snapped up at this and he watched as Lucas plunged the dagger into her own stomach, crying out as the point pierced her flesh. Blood stained her hands instantly and she swooned at the pain, so much so that she toppled over and Nicodemus was forced to almost dive in order to catch her.
“Lucas! What have you done?” Nicodemus cried out as he brought her face to his. Lucas struggled to sit up, but a coughing fit caused her to fall back into Nicodemus’s arms, blood staining her mouth as it poured liberally through her lips.
“It was a necessary part of the Ritual,” she wheezed at the difficulty of speaking “,the last sacrifice must always be the sorcerer who began it, they must share the fate of the other three victims, and their’s must be the only willing sacrifice.” Nicodemus’s eyes stung as he fought back tears.
“Damnit Lucas! Why did you do this! Why didn’t you tell me?” The Bretonnian lord stared down at the blood-stained face that returned his gaze.
“You know why. Now you must finish it, the Ritual is not complete without my skull being added to the others.” She coughed, her voice was growing weaker, “you know what to do.”
“I cannot, I will not, you cannot ask me to do such a thing,” Nicodemus sobbed.
“You will only have moments once the portal is opened. You must be quick.”
“No, I will not condemn you to this end, it is one thing for you to die, but to damn you to an eternity of suffering beyond this death, I will not do such a thing. They can have the damned Blade, they cannot have you!” Nicodemus’s hand shook as he brushed a stray strand of hair out of Lucas’s eyes and his shoulders heaved as he struggled to keep her propped up. Lucas struggled to protest, but the light was fading from her eyes. Nicodemus looked up into the flickering life that was barely visible. Her lips were parted in a smile.
“Thank you,” she whispered. Nicodemus returned the smile as well and lowered his head onto her chest, sobbing. Lucas gently placed her hand on his brow and prepared to breath her last.
“Blood for the Blood God,” a voice said behind them, “Skulls for the Skull Throne.” Nicodemus’s eyes snapped open.
“No!” He cried. But Aire’s blade was already in motion. In a bloody spray Lucas’s head rolled off of her shoulders and into the Ritual circle where it burst into flames, leaving behind only ash which then also dissipated upon a magical wind.
“You bastard!” Nicodemus grabbed his blade that Lucas had dropped when she fell and threw himself at Aire. The elf didn’t even try to avoid the blow, but watched as Nicodemus thrust the blade straight through his heart. Aire’s reaction shocked Nicodemus out of his rage.
“Why!?” he whispered.
“Because you wouldn’t have done it.” Aire’s voice rattled in his chest as he labored for breath. “Now, don’t let our sacrifice be in vain.” With that the Loremaster fell to the ground, tearing Nicodemus’s sword from his grip as he went. The last Bretonnian standing stared blankly into nothing.
The portal at the edge of the Ritual circle burst into flame and a heat so heavy that it forced Nicodemus to his knees boiled out of the open gateway. Turning Nicodemus stared into the gates of Hell. Molten brass churned around black obsidian and the stench of burning hair and scorched skin filled his senses to the brim. Khorne’s forge stood open, all that remained was to cast the Blade in and let the unholy fires do their work. Nicodemus stood and staggered towards the altar where the cursed artefact lay. As he did so, the rubble where the roof cave-in had occurred shifted and a great figure pushed his way free of the debris.
“You will not destroy the Blade,” a bloodied but very much alive Aantar bellowed at Nicodemus. The demon moved to intercept the Bretonnian lord before he could reach the weapon on the altar but his wings were crushed beneath the detritus and he was effectively pinned in place. Nicodemus scrambled towards the Blade while Aantar struggled. Aantar wove a complex series of hand gestures and the sword that Nicodemus had dropped raised up and threw itself at its master, who was forced to leap out of the way. Aantar howled in fury and pain as he forced himself forward, the muscles and skin connecting his wings to his back stretched and broke away in a gory blast that would have left a visceral effect on the room had it not already been soaked with blood.
Staggering forward the demon prince grabbed for the blade but came up short as a searing pain pierced his leg. Turning, he saw the prone form of Nicodemus holding Aire’s blade that was firmly embedded in the demon’s calf. Screaming in anger, Aantar raked his claws down at Nicodemus who quickly rolled to the side and leapt to his feet. Aantar ripped the Loremaster’s blade free from his leg and threw it at his assailant missing him by inches as Nicodemus slammed into the altar and grabbed the Blade by its hilt. Aantar leapt over the altar and landed in between Nicodemus and the open portal.
“You will not deny me my prize!” Aantar growled. Nicodemus gripped the Blade by its hilt, he felt the energies coursing through him, could feel the taint on his skin.
“Is this what Kalia would have wanted?” Aantar didn’t respond immediately.
“Give me the Blade!”
“You know that I will not. You’ll have to kill me to get it.” Nicodemus looked behind the demon prince and saw that the portal was growing smaller. The gateway was beginning to close!
“Agreed. Then die!” Aantar lunged at his former friend, both sets of claws outstretched and aimed to rip Nicodemus’s head from his body. Nicodemus showed no emotion as he brought the Blade up and almost casually sliced both of Aantar’s hands from his arms in one fluid motion before carrying through and ramming the Blade through his chest. The Blade’s runs glowed through the sickly blood that stained the warpstone infested steel. Aantar’s momentum grounded to a halt and he stared down at the man whose hands gripped the Blade’s hilt.
“Now my promise is fulfilled, my friend.” With that Nicodemus placed his foot against Aantar’s body and pulled the Blade free. Aantar toppled backwards from the force of the pull and as he landed Nicodemus threw the artifact at the shrinking portal. Time seemed to slow as the Blade tumbled through the air towards the molten forge beyond. Nicodemus closed his eyes and sank to his knees, his energy spent and his will broken.
The Blade passed through the gateway and landed in the seething heat. It stood for a moment, as if the fires would not consume it. Then in a blinding green flash it tore the world apart. The backlash of sorcerous energies cascaded out of the shrinking portal and erupted in a pillar of emerald light followed by a thunderclap explosion the force of which tore the tower apart, anything within its walls instantly burned to a cinder without even a sensation of pain.
* * * * *
The ripples of the explosion echoed out over the battlefield and for a moment there was a lull in the fighting as heads turned towards the source of the explosion. As if synchronized with the destruction of the Blade, the blood rain faltered and died. Daggon noted both events with a grim nod, there was no satisfaction in the sacrifices that had been required to end this evil. It had all been necessary, but that did not mean he would be forced to accept that. Glancing down from his dragon’s eye view of the battlefield he saw that the refugees had finished their evacuation and that troops were beginning to fall back themselves to the park and their salvation. The bloody tide of northlanders stretched far and away into the distance. There would be no saving this city, indeed the country itself was likely doomed. But they had saved some lives here and destroyed a terrible object of greater evil and those were victories. In these darkening days you had to take what victories you could.
The elf prince spied a lone figure sitting amidst a scene of tremendous carnage. Daggon recognized the standard held in this lone figure’s hand and realized that it was Gregor. Not far from the bannerman’s position several units of Chaos warriors were coming closer and a few packs of skaven were approaching the location as well. Banking sharply, Daggon landed as close to his friend as he could and hopped out of his saddle.
“Gregor! We must go! There are too many of them here! Our task is done, the Blade is destroyed and the refugees evacuated. It’s time for us to leave!” Gregor did not turn to look at Daggon as he replied, his voice barely above a cracked whisper.
“I am the last…” Daggon stared at his friend with a worried expression. Gregor pointed at the bodies around him.
“That was Sir Gelder, he had seen only 17 winters, and there was Sir Joethe, his father had gifted him with his charger just last spring. Sir Trinidad was to marry in the coming months, his lady was waiting for him at the King’s court til this campaign was over…” Gregor’s voice trailed off in a broken, husky whisper.
“They gave their lives for a good cause, now come we…” Daggon pulled at his friend’s arm.
“Did they!?” Gregor cut over Daggon’s words with a fiery shout “Look at the enemy that even now advances on us! They are without number! There is no army capable of stopping this threat! The world will burn beneath their boots and in the coming days we will all yearn for death!” Gregor sobbed, pushing himself to his feet and staring at the elven prince. “How is extending these peasants’ lives for a few miserable weeks a ‘good cause’? They will all die and their screams will echo in the hollow ears of my fallen brothers and they will know that their deaths were in vain.” Daggon stepped back, shocked at the venom in his friend’s voice.
“You cannot give up hope, my people…”
“Your people cowered in the woods while my people died. They forced my lord to live an eternity of torment because they could not risk the Blade in their lands.” Gregor advanced on Daggon and stabbed an accusing finger into his chest. “Your people almost locked you away and even now they hope to avoid fighting this enemy because they know they cannot win!” Daggon stared into his friend’s eyes and saw the hopeless fury behind them.
“Would that we had time to bury your comrades. They deserve better than this.” The elf’s words cut through the pale of anger that scorched Gregor’s tongue, yearning for release. Gregor was taken aback and so instead of saying anything, he held his tongue and sat down hard on the ground. His tears stinging the already festering bite mark on his cheek. “We must go, you will win no honor in throwing your life away in a useless gesture of frustration and anger. You will win no vengeance in giving these filthy creatures the honor of piercing your corpse with their spears. Come away and live, that is how you honor the dead.” Daggon’s words shocked even himself, he had not inspected his own feelings too closely since learning of Lianthur’s betrayal, but he could relate to the anguish his human friend was feeling. In those moments Daggon swore to follow his own words, and at this decision a great weight seemed to lift from his shoulders and he found breathing an easier task than the moments before. Gregor lowered his head and wailed unabashedly.
The elf prince spied a lone armored figure in the distance, this was soon joined by a contingent of other armored figures. At their fore a blasphemous totem that seemed to crackle with lightning waved on unseen wind currents. Frantically, Daggon turned and hauled his sobbing friend to his feet. Without waiting for further comment the elf prince pushed Gregor unceremoniously towards Archaiadynami. Gregor did not fight and allowed himself to be pushed onto the saddle before Daggon joined him. Kicking his heels into the dragon’s side, Daggon urged Archaiadynami into the skies. As they ascended the moon broke into full splendor, finally piercing the dark gloom that had covered the battlefield throughout that long day of fighting. The absence of Morrisleb, the warpstone moon, had a startling effect on the lighting. The burning city was washed in blue light that seemed to mute the horrifying sounds that emanated from the ravaged streets below.With the wind howling in their ears they sped off into the east, towards Athel Loren.

   
Made in us
Crazy Marauder Horseman







Epilogue:
Bretonnia burned to ash. The once mighty kingdom thrown down to ruin in a fiery blaze of hellfire and devilish sacrilege. Its knights scattered to the winds or secreted away by the conniving elves. Gregor never saw his home again. Sheila never returned to her mountain holds. Daggon could never bring himself to accept Athel Loren as his home.
Upon arriving in the last stronghold for order, Gregor learned the foul truth about his beloved “Lady,” that she was a trickster of the elf pantheon who simply used his people to create a shield for her own race's defense. This pushed the young knight even further into despair as he learned of the losing battles to the east and the fall of Altdorf. Duke Jerrod, the last of the great leaders of Bretonnia, invited Gregor to accompany him on a final quest, but Gregor could not bring himself to go. The sadness at the loss of his mentor and his friends mixed with the grief at the destruction of his home was too overwhelming. It was at this that Lilith, the faded embodiment of the once revered Lady of the Lake approached the disenchanted knight and told him that there may be a way to recover his lost friends. She told him of a place far to the north where the realm of Chaos is free and the laws of reality bend and break on a whim. If Gregor would be strong enough to brave that then there was a chance that he could make it to the foot of Khorne's throne and reclaim the skulls of those sacrificed to destroy the Blade.
Gregor did not respond to the false goddess's words, but simply rose and sought out his friends from the campaign in Mousillon. Upon finding them he held a whispered conference. No one knows what was said in that discussion, but when it ended each of the generals nodded and departed back to their individual camps.
Daggon sought out his brother and gifted him with the magical lance that he had used atop his faithful draconic steed for many generations of man. Xiomar did not understand the meaning of this gift, and Daggon did not attempt to explain it. He wandered the ranks of his troops, speaking to certain individuals and reassuring his soldiers of the impending victory for the coming days.
Sheila also returned to her camp and sent out a request for volunteers for a dangerous assignment. Nearly everyone in her command came forward to enlist. Sheila made a special trip to find the miner's foreman and seek out his wisdom, and they spoke late into the night.
Gregor sought out what soldiers had survived from his army. He was surprised to see a few knights had come through, though not enough to really compare with their former glory they were enough to form a new regiment. Gregor, in a twist of irony, dubbed the new regiment “The Forlorn” and burned the now powerless banner that Nicodemus had received from the Lady on his crusade so long ago. Instead he hoisted new colors hastily constructed of a red stag on a white field with a golden star at its chief in a field of black to represent their own mourning and the bloody battles they had lived through.
The next morning the three commanders met again, each at the head of a column of soldiers. They did not speak, but simply nodded and began their trepidatious march north. They were never seen again. For after their departures the Incarnates began the final phase of their campaign that was ultimately doomed to failure. With that failure came the ending of the world. No one is sure if Gregor, Daggon, and Sheila were successful in freeing those tortured souls trapped at the throne of Khorne or not. Perhaps they died in the journey. Or maybe they were killed not by demons or chaos followers, but by the simple destruction of their world.
Who knows?
But something whispers upon the faded winds of magic, and those whispers paint an image of three mighty figures fighting against a red sea of blood, three scorched skulls in their hands as they push against the never ending tide of death that threatens to overwhelm them. Perhaps these are our heroes. Perhaps they found a way to survive and bring their friends back to the mortal plain. There are many worlds, and Chaos is known in all of them, although sometimes by a different name. And there are doorways that can lead to anywhere if the need is great enough and the timing is right. Who can say for certain what has become of our heroes? But something tells me that their story has not yet been told in full.

   
 
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