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Battle on the plains of Baleford – Part II

Cynn’s heart was beating fast with anticipation. She had been training for a very long time to be part of the Domicile Venificii’s regiment of battle mages and she was eager to participate in her first real battle. They were spirit walking to their intended destination, right into the flank of an army of elementals. There had been a strategy meeting right before they started walking. They were assigned into teams of an Earth caster, two Celestial casters and three of the knights.

The role of the knights was to engage in melee and protect the casters, whilst the Earth caster needed to keep up healing and defences. Then there was her job. Her job was to pummel the enemy with elemental power. Thinking of it gave her a shiver, she couldn’t wait!

After the strange quiet of the spirit walk, it felt like all her senses were being assaulted as they stepped out of the magic circle. She could hear the clash of steel, the casting of magics, and war drums from across the battlefield where she knew the Wolfshead orcs would be. She could smell death and fields of crops burning. In front of her she could see elementals, humans and orcs, all clashing into an ocean of violence.

She hadn’t realise she had been holding her breath. She snapped out of her momentary stun and fell in behind the shield wall of knights. “Ready!” came the commander’s call and she had the spells she needed to cast on the tip of her tongue and she was already starting to bring her magical energy to the tips of her fingers. “Fire!”

Flame, stone, ice and lightning burst into the air as the line of mages in the DV regiment fired a volley of spells into the enemy flank. Some elementals fell where they stood whilst some spells only seemed to draw the attention of others.

They fought hard to push the enemy back towards the catacombs and even had a few close calls with the smaller and faster chaos imps getting through the shield wall. The battle had been raging for a few hours now and they had found a fairly defensible position. She had planted her feet and was focused on unleashing a Magic Storm, flinging attack after attack at surrounding enemies.

Occasionally she saw a collection of orcs engaging close by, or a group from the Cornstalk alliance fighting a collection of imps. She heard a squeal and massive thump as one of the enormous riding boars crashed into an elemental. It lifted it up in its curved tusks and flung it to one side. It’s rider, a tall and relatively skinny orc, was firing arrow after arrow at the enemies around them. They were focussed on a particular group of elementals when an imp, jumped at him from behind. He noticed the imp’s attack a bit too late and was sure he would get knocked off his mount when it was blown clear off its intended path by an magical attack.

Cynn smirked to herself, the imp was not nearly as quick on the draw as she was. The orc looked up at her and raised his bow and arrow directly in her direction. For a moment she froze in shock and indignation as he let his arrow fly directly at her! She thought she was going to die, when the arrow flew right past her head and she heard a crack and squeal from behind her. She craned her neck around to see that an imp lay dead on the ground just a few feet away from her.

She spun back to face the archer and he had a smirk on his face as well, he nodded to her and sped off again, taking down more elementals with arrow and tusk as they went. She seethed inside “Why that little show-off…” but decided to channel that into showing that show-off exactly who the best crack-shot was and fired two dead-on blasts at the heads of the two nearest elemental imps.

… to be continued

– Story Written by Rushka Venter

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Battle on the plains of Baleford – Part I

Part1Another gut-wrenching crunch and snap of bone and flesh pierced the smoky air as another soldier engaging the massive elemental in the enemy’s’ vanguard was just a little too slow to avoid the devastating blow. A thunderous blast followed by an explosion could be heard from their eastern flank as elementals continued hurtling elemental magic about. Commander Logan and his men had been fighting this battle for days and the enemy was pushing them back. There was just no end to the waves that kept pouring out of the catacombs.

At first the elementals were manageable, especially with some fighting between the order and chaos elementals, but soon the order elementals became enough to form a well organised army and the chaos elementals managed to slip through and do anything from setting crops on fire to stealing barn doors. A significant amount of crops have already been lost and if the enemy advance wasn’t stopped here, Cornstalk would be in serious trouble.

His superiors had sent word that reinforcements would be coming soon and he just needed to hold out. At this moment the Cornstalk Alliance had already poured more men into this battle than they could spare and scores were already dead. It was getting to a point where he was considering an all-out retreat.

Logan rammed his shield into another of the smaller elemental imps trying to get to their back-line of mages, toppling it onto the the ground where he deftly shoved his sword’s blade through the thing’s skull.”Commander!” someone was trying to get his attention through the noise of battle. The owner of the voice suddenly appeared at his flank, escorted by two other soldiers. He recognised him as one of the scouts that was keeping an eye on the edges of the battle field. “Report.” Logan gave the order as he was offered a brief reprieve when another group moved forward into the advancing elementals.

The young man, no older than twenty, had a fearful look on his face when he began his report  “I spotted what appears to be a scouting party of goblins in the thicket to our West sir. They seemed to observe the battlefield for a while before they vanished into the thicket again.” Logan could feel his stomach drop a bit. The orcs and other goblinoids from Wolfshead had been relatively quiet in the last year or so and they didn’t have any major problems with raids in that time. He had heard rumours about a new leader, but he was wary and distrustful of the apparent peace. Had they decided to use this opportunity to overwhelm the Cornstalk Alliance? He nodded grimly at the young man “Thank you. Please return to your post and report back when you know –” His sentence was interrupted by a loud booming warhorn from the thicket to their West, followed by the all-too-familiar beating of massive war-drums

The horde of orcs, goblins, ogres, half-breeds and all had already started streaming from the thicket to their flank. At the front of the charge was a group riding their war-mounts. Massive boars  that had enormous tusks and were just as aggressive as their riders, using them to slash through enemy flesh. At the front of the charge was a smaller desecrated half-orc, her sword at the ready. It was evident that she was leading the charge. Beside her rode two big orcs, each with a war-banner strapped to their backs. The one was grey and had the emblem of two axes and a wolf and the other was red and had the emblem of a boar on it. In their infantry there were even more different kinds of banners. He had never seen so many different tribal banners together before.

He thought that they were truly done-for when he realised that the orcs were not charging at the Alliance’s forces, but directly into the flank of the enemy’s army. He was stunned for a moment but was soon snapped out of it when a formal magic circle to the enemy’s Eastern flank started to light up and more humans, dressed in greens and golds started appearing out of it. He recognised the heraldry as Domicile Venificii. Their knights started forming a shield wall at the front whilst their backline started raining all manner of magic down upon the enemy’s Eastern flank.

Gripping his sword and shield handle tightly and clenching his jaw he realised that this was the reinforcements he was told would come. He did not, however, realise that they would be fighting alongside orcs. He managed to swallow his anger and pride for long enough to see that the battle must continue on.They could push the enemy back into the catacombs with the numbers and strength that just arrived.

Rally to me!” He shouted at the top of his lungs. “Push forward and don’t let them escape the attack!” His men followed him forward, bashing, slashing and casting at the enemy, pushing them into their ally’s attacks.

… to be continued

– Story Written by Rushka Venter

Devotion

Weapon forward… Strike!

The blade cut toward the straw-and-sand mannequin cutting through what would have been the lower intestine.

Retreat step… Block!

Keeping his feet at the correct angle he stepped back from his target. He brought the weapon up to the correct angle. Almost. Anger welled inside him as he corrected the positioning of the butt of his pole-arm.

Advance..Strike!

Sweat dripped from his brow. He was not exempt from this training. He was a citizen of Skaven like any other. He had to set the example. They people needed to know he was one of them. He scarcely felt the body on the end of the blade any more. More sand trickled to the ground.

Weapon centre…Block!

The weight of the shaft was becoming almost casual to him. Good. He had worked at this long enough had he not. No. Never. Never enough. One could never  be good enough. Skaven always demanded more. Why didn’t they see that?

Weapon order…Hold!

A momentary respite  before the drill began again. He could taste sweat at the corners of his mouth. There would always be sheep. He would  need hounds to herd  them but he needed to be both sheep and hound at once.

Weapon forward… Strike!

                                                                                ***

Four hours later his entire body ached. His wrists burned as he splashed the cold water over his face. The polearm lay on the bench along with his sword, both freshly oiled. A simple  tool on its own, in the hands of competent men and women each became a weapon. He would have to have Oren compensated on the workmanship of the polearm. Practical and simple. Just as he liked it. None of the excess so  desired by the former nobility.

That had soon been sanded off them. Skaven has no time for frivolity. There is only what you can  contribute. There is only what she  allows you. That is why they drilled. That is why each man and woman toiled. They did it because though none said it they understood.  Their very spirits connected to Skaven they understood what she desired.  This was  good. Come the siege they were going to need it. Already the Homeland  Defense Force had taken losses but such was war. That did not mean he had to accept it. That did not mean they had to accept it. Their blood seeped into soils a libation to their homeland. She did not find them wanting. The ultimate sacrifice, a final death in  service of the nation. Those nameless men and women, remembered by their families would be soon forgotten by the masses. Their names recorded only on the parchments of the HDF scribes to be stacked away in some dusty room to gather dust as the deeds of the dead slowly decay in the memories of common folk.

No he would not allow himself  to forget, their sacrifice was exemplar to all. Skaven demanded devotion above all else. He would better himself. They all would. There could be no  alternative. Devotion to death.

 

– written by Duane Havenga – 

The Gears of Administration

Paperwork cluttered the once tidy chamber. Its spartan utilitarianism giving  way to uncontrolled, turbulent seas of parchment dotted ever so often by fleets of scroll casses or lonely tomes drowning amidst the  chaos. All these foreigners. This Hell debacle was a  headache if ever there was one. Half did not even bother to fill in the appropriate paperwork and his offices had been working  double shifts to process  the numerous claims of theft of property.

Why did no one seem to understand that order was needed to maintain law. Systems were in place for a reason. Everything ran on gears of ink and parchment. No paperwork no processing. How can one judicate theft claims  for a party that does not legally exist within Skaven. Did these Philistines have no such procedure back wherever they  crawled out from? He would personally have to deal with this yes. Already his saddlebags were packed with documentation to be distributed when he arrived at the siege. Those who did not listen  to reason would just have to suffer the consequences. He was fair was he not?  Or did they wish to enter Skaven for ulterior motives. The Homeland Defense Forces would have to be placed  on higher alert.

Every foreign trader would be under  closer scrutiny. Routine pass checks would have to be doubled. Curfews put in place, if they wanted to test him they would not find him wanting. They wanted him to slip up but he  wouldn’t. No. They would not  have that satisfaction. They would  conform  to the laws.  Compliance was  not optional. Skaven does not allow his failure in that regard. Skaven does not allow failure at all.

 

– written by Duane Havenga – 

Experiments

The room was filled with a thick, rank smoke that could not filter out of the small window fast enough. It was dark inside, save for the torch burning contentedly above the table stacked high with tomes, arrayed with vials, scattered with strange ingredients and well worn with years of scorch marks. 

 A dwarf sat hunched over the table, palms on his forehead, as a small, purple-coloured puff of smoke swirled its way up from the table and dispersed into the hazy nothingness of the room. The dwarf let out a long sigh. Another failure. He had begun to wonder why his master had instructed him to delve into this alchemy business a few failures ago. Yes, it surely had a myriad of uses in and out of combat. He could see that plain as day, and was sure he could put the various possible gas globes which could be produced with the proper skill to excellent use. Surely, however, there were others with some more natural talent in the actual creation of all these recipes and formulas. He was a smith by trade. He was used to creation by careful application of force. This finicky business of exact measurements and trial by error did not come easy to him.

 He had been here, in this dank excuse for a lab, for days now and had yet to even create a simple light elixir. The room itself boggled him. It was almost as though the previous students and masters of alchemy to use it before him enjoyed perpetuating some ridiculous stereotype of a mad alchemist wreathed in smoke and shadow, the light of creation before him all that illuminates his wrinkled and manic face. It could at least have proper ventilation.  Some good old fashion dwarven engineering needed to be applied here.

 Eventually the dwarf managed to pull himself away from his construction griping and return to the task at hand. He sighed yet again as he read over the recipe instruction for what felt like the thousandth time, and frowned at the page, as he reached out for the measuring spoons and ingredients.

 Carefully, with a steady hand, he took care to take the correct amount of each ingredient. Slowly, with a dedicated precision born out of a stubborn desire to accomplish this feat of creation at least once, he poured each part of the formula into the well-used mortar that lay before him. Taking pestle in hand he smoothly mixed and crushed it all together. Finally he decantered it into a nearby vial and cautiously stoppered it shut. He held up the vial to eye height, took a deep breath and gave it one quick, violent shake.

 Miraculously, it did not explode in his face. Instead, for the first time, it issued forth a calm, white light. A light to him that seemed as great as the sun and comprised of all his hopes and dreams at this point in time. Maybe there was something to this alchemy business after all.

The Cleansing

I remember the dust…

 It coated the tops of the rafters I was clinging to. It hung heavy in the air. There was a full moon that night and I could see the dust dancing where the hole I entered through allowed a stray moonbeam through. Looking back it seems almost poetic, the amount of dust present in that room. How it clung to everything there. How it needed to be cleaned.

 See, Hope was covered in dust. More than dust. In filth. It coated everything. Metaphorically speaking of course, although the word filth aptly applied to that man that sat below me that night.  The dust needed to be cleaned away if Hope was to become anything. If Skaven was to become anything. It had gone without cleaning for far too long. That man was dust, and I was there to clean him away. To kill him.

 I say kill, but of course it was more than likely murder. It was entirely legal, don’t get me wrong. He deserved it, as well. He was a vile and selfish creature, as crime lords tend to be. The amount of wrongs he committed I do not think I could count. Still, I’m sure a good man would have forced him before a trial, or given him a chance to realise his wrongs and turn himself over to justice. Something like that; something different than quick, cold death. My orders did not allow him such a luxury however, and I was quite happy with it that way.

 I’m getting sidetracked by philosophical musings on morality aren’t I? I shall stop that. Where was I? Right. There I was, perched in the dark rafters of the roof, hidden in shadow along with the dust. Two others hung to beams nearby in a similar fashion as myself; there for the same reason as myself. We all carried crossbows. They were loaded; vorpal coatings had been applied to the bolts. The distraction team had drawn most of the guards away, as was planned. Only two remained. One man for each of. This needed to be ended quickly and efficiently.  

 I will admit, my hands were shaking. I’d served in the war, so obviously I had seen, and caused, my fair share of death. This, however, was very different from a war… and yet incredibly similar. Whether it was the difference or the similarity that got on my nerves I couldn’t tell, but I couldn’t steady my aim. That’s probably why my bolt hit him in the arm, instead of the head. What followed is a terribly embarrassing memory. I panicked, drew my blade and threw myself from the roof onto the man, where I stabbed him repeatedly to death. It is not a pleasant state of mind to remember, and one I do not wish to ever be in again. I thank my stars that my comrades had been more accurate. I would not have fared well had the muscle survived their respective bolts and born down on my person.

 Regardless of my sloppiness, we finished our mission, as many other teams were finishing similar ones throughout Hope that night. It was a bloody night of cleansing that, when the old criminal powers who would not convert to the new order were put down without mercy. It was a necessary night though, never forget that. The dust had to be cleaned.

He felt the Pull

He felt the pull. It drew him to Hell, and for no apparent reason, he went. He found the cultist, and for a moment thought to join them, but somehow he knew, they were not what he was looking for. He stood on a hill, overlooking the mess, observing these “cultists” in their sacrifices. With every thrust of their blades into innocent flesh he felt his flesh crawl. Somehow their actions were polluting all he holds dear, but he had no way of knowing what was happening, or why, so he simply observed.

He had heard tales of Hell. He heard of Echo, and was never quite sure if he respected the man, or need to destroy him. Luckily that choice is no longer his. So he watched.

The cultists were dancing, and singing. Not music and rhythm though, but a cacophony of sound and movement. Suddenly everything went silent.

He revelled in the silence, for with the silence came a sense of his powers returning. Within the silence came another pull, and when he looked up he saw her, far on another mound, a woman in a dark travel worn cloak. He knew she was important, but did not immediately know why.

He saw her opening her eyes, and as they opened he could feel his magic has returned, but something was wrong. Something has changed. His powers felt darker, unnatural.

 The cultists were busy raising those they sacrificed! They were making an unnatural army using the corruption of chaos magic!

The woman opened her eyes and saw what the cultists were doing. He saw a light flash in her eyes, and in a moment her sword was in her hand. There was a glow emanating from a pendant that she was wearing. He stood silently on his hill, leaning on his walking stick, watching the woman wade into the necromancers, leaving their dead bodies behind her in a wake of destruction. He smiled, for at that moment he knew why he was drawn here.

As the last decapitated body fell to the floor the light from her pendant receded, and the woman fell to the ground.

“Right” he said to himself, allowing the magic to play on his finger tips.