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8th Ed, Holy War

Irisado

Ancient Vampire Lord
Staff member
True Blood
Joined
May 22, 2010
Messages
623
#76
It's extremely disappointing that Photobucket has decided to behave in this way and has, effectively, cancelled out so much of your work. This thread has been fantastic to follow, and it's such a shame that all the photos have disappeared. I hope that you are able to rebuild the campaign. Please keep us informed.
 
Joined
Nov 10, 2007
Messages
231
#77
Some amazing magic has been done to this campaign on the Oldhammer forum, and they have replaced all the pictures. You can see the fully repaired campaign at http://forum.oldhammer.org.uk/viewtopic.php?f=15&t=2889. Be warned, it's a lot bigger than what is here, as it includes all the non-undead stuff too!

If, however, you want to read the slowly re-growing, 'improved' version of the campaign (in which I am editing all the posts for grammar, spelling etc) then take a look at www.bigsmallworlds.com.

This campaign will not die!
 
Joined
Nov 10, 2007
Messages
231
#78
The Church of Nagash

Near Viadaza, northern Tilea, Spring 2403

The graveyards were empty, the tombs bereft of bones. Viadaza had been harvested of all that could be made undead many months before, upon Lord Adolfo’s command. Yet once again the city swarmed with the vampires’ servants, an army of animated warriors with or without rotting flesh, having this time marched upon the city rather than arisen within it. There had been no shortage of corpses after the battle at Ebino to swell the shambling horde, which meant Biagino, craving followers for his new Church of Nagash, had been generously provided for. He arrived at the city with quite a congregation – not only the select servants of La Fraternita di Morti Irrequieti, but also the wild mob of his Disciplinati di Nagash. He had also been gifted the famous Cattedrale di Morr Re, which sat in its extensive grounds a little way north-east of the city walls. All this he received with a degree of satisfaction, but he knew it was not enough. If his church was to thrive, if Nagash was to be fed by its prayers and so return his blessings, then there was one more, (quite literally) vital thing he needed. Hopefully, Viadaza would provide.

As he waited before the castle-like front of the Cattedrale, he was accompanied by a cluster of servants.

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Several zombies staggered hither and thither about their labours, lifting or dragging the last pieces of debris away so that the grassy space was almost pristine. Biagino’s guards and attendants, however, were silent and, for the most part, motionless. Three red-robed brothers stood in prayerful contemplation. They possessed a serenity which sometimes concealed their deep wickedness and at other times gave it a sharper edge. For now, they merely waited.

The first of Biagino’s Disciplinati was also present, his head a battered mess of misshapen bone and torn flesh, his hands disfigured by their size, somehow both swollen and emaciated at one and the same time, the splayed fingers elongated beyond their natural length. He still wore the dedicant’s robes he had been captured in, bar the gloves, of course.

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Biagino had intended to turn this man into one of his Fraternita thralls, as he had done with several of those who had been captured alive, but in a fitful moment of uncontrolled bloodlust during the enspelling he had gone a tad too far and accidentally killed the man. Not wanting to waste the corpse, he chose instead to re-animate it. When he saw what resulted he decided there and then to form his Disciplinati di Morr, a huge mob of crazed un-corpses who would serve, as they had in life, as bloodthirsty dedicants, footsoldiers for his church, while his Fraternita would be his priests, clerks and lieutenants.

Apart from the rustling of leaves in the breeze and the faint sound of grunting and groaning from the foul mob contained within the cattedrali’s cloistered quadrangle, all was quiet on the tree-lined green.

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Biagino had been waiting for another of his servants, a captain of his skeletal body-guard, to arrive. While he did so, he gave his mind up to the powerful swirl of gleeful desires born of his vampiric lusts, suffusing him thoroughly, and conjoining with the winds of magic animating his frame. He felt a surge building and allowed it to pour outwards, feeding all those around him and amplifying the eerie sound issuing from within the walls behind him.

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Then something bright caught his eye and he realised the captain was already present - sunlight reflecting from the curved blade of the captain’s ancient war scythe.

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“What news, captain?” Biagino demanded. “How many? And are they coming?”

The captain responded immediately, yet neither by movement nor sound. His answer was without words, for he knew not the modern tongue and had no tongue to speak it. It was contained in a thought, or rather the echo of a thought, which washed through Biagino’s mind with cruel clarity.

They are coming, but it will be some time yet. There are not many, less than a hundred.

“So few?”

The city is almost empty. All the rest have fled.

“Which means I get the slow, the foolish and the unlucky?”

They live.

“Yes,” said Biagino. “At least they are alive. And they must stay that way until they have yielded unto Nagash all that they can – every anguished prayer and fearful misery. I will turn their screams into hymns, their cries into plainsong. Their torment will be delicious as their suffering sates our lord’s hunger.”

He thought of the blood he would take from them in their last moments. It would be a meagre nourishment, like thin gruel, but in great quantity. This in turn stirred in him the ancient hunger, a distraction he refused to yield to.

“It seems we have time on our hands,” he said. “We shall put it to good use and further prepare this temple for its unholy purpose. I will have it made ready before the worshippers arrive.”

Biagino turned to the first of his Disciplinati.

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“It is time for your brothers to begin the vapouring,” he declared. Then he looked upon the three Fraternita.

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“Bring the tome,” he ordered. One of the red-robed thralls stepped forwards to proffer said book.

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Biagino made a sign over the book and gave a short prayer in the classical Reman tongue: “In virtute Nagash, non somnus, non requiem.”

The thrall then opened the book to a page marked by a finger bone and turned it around to allow Biagino to read its ancient text. He did so, aloud, intoning the words with exaggerated expression, an almost mocking tone. Allowing the etheric breeze to penetrate him deeply, to coalesce and swirl through and about his mind, he summoned his Disciplinati.

For a few moments only his shrill voice could be heard, but then another sound joined it, not one but many voices. They were wordless, first groans and moans, then guttural cries and growls. Biagino turned to look at the trees to his left. The others did the same …

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… and he cried out, “There! My bambini. See how they run!”

They poured from the catedrale, their pace frantic, their arms outstretched, still part-clothed in the ragged remains of their Morrite robes.

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“Ha!” laughed Biagino. “Look at them! They have not forgotten, but now they dance for Nagash!”

The Disciplinati cavorted onwards, forming a long column. Some carried the weapons they had died with …

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… while others ran empty handed.

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Wild they ran, barely balanced, as if falling ever forwards, each step made just in time to prevent a tumble.

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Some wore the red or grey hoods of Morrite flagellants, others were topped with matted, ragged hair, while many were bald and bloody.

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As they emerged from behind the trees onto the open space, their course began to alter.

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The crazed column began to curve across the front of the catedrale, to commence its circumnavigation of the grounds.

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Just as they had done at Ebino, when they hurtled pell-mell around the holy carroccio, they now did the same here, so that their clamourous cavorting might sanctify the catedrale. This time, however, they served a different god.

The Church of Nagash was truly re-born!
..................................
Remember, to see the whole campaign, with re-instated pictures, please go to http://forum.oldhammer.org.uk/viewtopic.php?f=15&t=2889, or to see the WIP (slowly being rebuilt) version, visit my website at www.bigsmallworlds.com.
 

Irisado

Ancient Vampire Lord
Staff member
True Blood
Joined
May 22, 2010
Messages
623
#80
The forces of the undead increase in number. Another excellent piece of narrative. This is a pleasure to read.
 
Joined
Nov 10, 2007
Messages
231
#81
There have been a few campaign posts since the above, but none involving undead ... until the one posted below. If you want to see the others they start at http://forum.oldhammer.org.uk/viewtopic.php?p=88810#p88810 although I do now have a website in which I am chronicling the campaign at www.bigsmallworlds.com.
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The End of Spring, IC2403

6. They were going the other way!
Near Scorcio, Central Tilea


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As always, they were riding a little way ahead of the army, scouting out the intended route. Being the Compagnia’s fastest troops, well-mounted but lightly armoured, it had always been their job to act as outriders and scouts, and they had done so a hundred times in Estalia. Here, however, back in their own homeland, it was different. The razed villages were familiar enough, for such destruction was to be found anywhere a war was being fought, and there was no shortage of ruins: barely a plank of sawn wood that was not charred, nor any door that was still fitted properly to its hinges. It was how they felt that was different. Back in Estalia they were searching, unsurprisingly, for Estalians. Here, however, they were scouring the terrain for signs of brute ogres or the foul servants of vampires, both of which were very different prospects compared to your average Estalian - the stuff of nightmares made real.

The company’s ensign, whose guidon bore the Compagnia del Sole’s Myrmidian emblem, was up at the front with the sergeant, while the rest of the company rode loosely in pairs behind. Apart from the ruins, the land was otherwise green and pleasant, what with it being late Spring, but eerily quiet, there having been no sound of birdsong, or ought else, for the last quarter of an hour. Dotted along the route were several copses of trees and one or two good sized woods, and the sergeant insisted on riding close to each to see what might lurk there, which meant they were tacking their way through the valley like a flotilla attempting to sail close to the wind. Twice now they had turned almost back on themselves because the sergeant had noticed a clump of trees they had earlier missed. This was a level of caution the sergeant had never exhibited in Estalia, and although he tried to hide his nervousness, his actions very clearly advertised his true state of mind. There was one good thing about their exertions – at least the journey back should prove a short one, as not only was the army itself moving up behind, but they could return by a straighter, and much shorter, course.

Amongst their number rode Ramondo Pisani upon his dun-coloured mare Pulce. For the last half an hour or so he had been deep in thought, allowing Pulce to much of the work following the rest of the company. He wasn’t the only quiet one – just about everyone else had been silent for some time, the only sounds being the dull thuddering of the horses’ hooves, the clattering of harness and trappings, and the occasional snapped command from the sergeant to wheel here or incline there. The quietness of the land had somehow pervaded them. It was not a peaceful sort of quiet, however, but ominous, imbuing them with a growing sense of foreboding.

Ramondo’s thoughts had definitely taken a darker turn. He had begun the day by waking from a dream about Gianetta. She had been laughing at him from her window in Urbimo, happy to see that he had returned as he promised, and that he now wore a cuirass of steel marking him out as a mounted man-at-arms. There had been some tomfoolery during breakfast concerning what Lazzero had said in his sleep, which had everyone laughing, and then there was the need to harness Pulce and prepare for the ride. Almost as soon as they had left the sounds of the camp behind, the rest of the army being tardy in their preparations for the march, Ramondo’s mind had begun a journey of its own. He began by pondering what the rocky realm of Campogrotta might be like, and whether they would be required to march into the mountains to the dwarven realm, but this soon turned into a contemplation of the enemies they might face along the way. Would the ogres be like the ones he had encountered before: huge, strong, clumsy, loud and sweaty, with a cruel streak and a taste for human flesh, yet mercenaries nevertheless? Or would they be wilder, crueller, and crazy in battle like the stories of the savage brutes from the eastern lands? Then he wondered whether they would have to face the undead before they even reached the ogres. It seemed they were attempting to stand well out from Viadaza and Ebino, taking the more direct route to Campogrotta, one without roads or even, for much of the way, paths. But as no-one knew exactly where the vampires’ forces were in the first place, the precaution was merely a best guess strategy.

If only to distract himself, for a while he had joined in his comrades’ conversation, limited as it was to occasional shouted jokes and jibes. They talked of events in Urbimo: of the women, the drinking, the gaming, but then someone said something about an old Urbiman grandmother begging them to stay, to keep her family from falling into hell, and their enthusiasm for the topic paled, then died. Then they talked of the sea journey from Estalia, of the sea sick pig sliding around the deck in its own vomit, and the flying fish that knocked the flux-ridden Donnino from the head into the sea, his pants left dangling behind, but then someone mentioned the shadowy ships seen at night and the eerily threatening shout, part chirruping, part squealing, that came from the darkness and once again the conversation died. When someone mentioned the vampire duchess, they were met by immediate silence, which became prolonged and so toppled Ramondo back into his own gloomy thoughts.

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That was when Ramondo noticed the smoke in the large wood to their left. Someone up at the front shouted,

“Have a care! Fire!”

Everyone looked, their trotting pace slowing a little, but then someone else declared,

“No, it’s fog.”

Ramondo knew immediately that something was not right. It was surely too late in the morning for fog to appear. They had seen no sign of it until now. Besides, why was there no fog in any of the other copses they could see?

As they rode on, nearly every face turned to the fog.

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“That ain’t natural,” said Arrigo, riding just ahead of Ramondo. “That’s wizardry, or elves.”

“I pray you’re right,” said Franceso, from behind. “For if it ain’t, then its necromancy!”

“Necromancers don’t summon fogs, they summon the dead,” argued Arrigo.

Ramondo rolled his eyes, wishing Arrigo wouldn’t talk about summoning the dead. It could not be good luck to mention such things.

“I don’t know,” said Francesco. “They mess with the etheric winds, which makes all sorts of funny stuff happen, not just what was intended. Remember that time Albiete tried to conjure fire against the crossbowmen on the walls of Vizeaya and burned half the …”

“Keep your eyes peeled!” barked the sergeant. “Ramondo, Francesco – rear-guard!”

Ramondo pulled on Pulce’s reins to slow her down, as did Francesco, and they fell back to the rear of the little column.

“It’s always us!” complained Francesco. “You and your nimble eyes, and me to look after you.”

Ramondo managed a wink, as if untroubled by the situation, and then set about scouring the tree line.

The fog thinned then thickened, then thinned again, giving Ramondo hope that it might not be so sinister at all. Maybe it had rolled down the slopes of the hill to the north, a heavy cloud grown too tired to remain aloft? The thinning never lasted, however, and each time it thickened up they slowed a little, falling incrementally further behind the others. He narrowed his eyes to peer into the misty gloom of the trees. If he had allowed his imagination to run wild he could have seen anything he liked in there, for the branches stretched, bent and criss-crossed to fashion up all sorts of possibilities: there a huge face with ragged holes for eyes, and there a man kneeling in prayer before a rock. Each image was momentary, as Pulce trotted on and the branches no longer played their trick.

Then he saw two grinning faces, looking right back at him. They were white like the fog, misshapen, imperfect representations of human faces. Grown used to the playfulness of the branches and their shadows he looked with simple curiosity at first, but this changed quickly into fear, for these faces did not melt away with his motion, and indeed they had a motion of their own. They were not imperfect due to the lie of the branches and the fronds upon them, but due to their lack of flesh! Worse still, there were bodies below the faces, weapons in their hands and bony horses to carry them.

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Ramondo felt his body weaken in fright, his insides seeming to shrink, his grip upon the reins threatening to loosen. Pulce could not have noticed, for she ran on like before, but when she sensed the change in Ramondo, her stride faltered a little. He could not speak, being only able to watch as he rode one way and they the other. Their heads turned to keep their eyeless sockets fixed upon him, and as they moved into a thinner patch of fog he realised there were more than two of them. Their mounts wore barding of an ethereal hue, and flecks of green fire speckled both their weapons and bony bodies.

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Coming to his senses – at least all those he could muster – he spurred Pulce on, and began to gallop towards the rest of the company.

“What is it?” shouted Francesco, as he joined the gallop. “What’s wrong?”

Ramondo’s answer was merely to gallop faster. He had to tell the others, and quick. The vampire duchess’s servants were much, much closer than anyone had thought!
 

Irisado

Ancient Vampire Lord
Staff member
True Blood
Joined
May 22, 2010
Messages
623
#83
Excellent writing and evocative pictures. I'm looking forward to the next part of the campaign.
 
Joined
Nov 10, 2007
Messages
231
#84
Now that Photobucket has graciously resurrected my pictures (3000+ different images scattered all over the web), and in light of how much some folk were enjoying the thread previously, I have decided to fill in all the gaps, including even posts that do not feature the undead or mention of them, and get the campaign up to it's present moment. I am right now working on a big bat-rep featuring the vampire duchess and so you could consider all that follows as prequel to that battle.

The reason I hadn't been posting everything new here recently was basically the demoralisation I felt at the sudden death of all the earlier photobucket pictures. Now that they are back, and the thread is made 'whole' again (even though it starts deep into the campaign and misses a lot of earlier posts) I feel better about putting the recent posts here.

Note, there is an out of sequence post that was put above, but I will insert a link at the appropriate spot.
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The end of Spring, IC2403

Part 1. (Excerpt from) A New Scripture for the Enlightened. Chapter 14, The Devoted of Palomtrina


It came to pass in the Spring of that year that the righteous of Palomtrina arose, after the last of the desert men had departed, and this multitude did cry out and promise themselves to Morr, desiring to be holy in his eyes, for they feared the imminent arrival of the undead and the brutes. Vallerius is the name of he who led them, their shepherd. And they did name themselves Morr’s Devoted. And their shepherd commanded them that they offer a sacrifice to the Lord Morr, which they did, putting off all their ornaments, burning and destroying utterly all the dainty works they had amassed, yielding their worldly wealth, offering up every gold and silver bauble they possessed unto the holy church. After which, the people lifted up their voices and wept with joy.

But they knew not that the chief among them, Shepherd Vallerius, was false, and through greed sinned against the Lord Morr, taking what he pleased from that which the Devoted had offered, diminishing its value greatly and concealing that which he had taken. And still his greed was not sated, so he spake unto them and bore false witness, revealing that the Lord Morr had visited his dreams, and he beguiled them with his words, and he revelled in their admiration, and his pride swelled unbounded. He commanded that they slay all those who had tended to the desert men before they departed, be they the innkeepers who had fed them …

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… or merely their servants, even the children.

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And he commanded them to show no mercy to those men who had traded goods with them …

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… and to slay all the women who had known the desert men, then to plunder all that these people possessed, gifting the spoil to the leaders of the Devoted, that they might use it to procure arms and armour for the holy war. In their fury and fervour, the Devoted did shed the blood of the innocent, stoning them with stones and burning them with fire, and utterly destroying them, man and woman, child and infant, not knowing that those things the shepherd had accused the people of were not sins in the eyes of Morr. And their hands were filled with blood. Yet they showed no mercy, despite the pleading of those they slew. And when the righteous priests tried to teach them the error of their ways, and were wroth with them, they did even slay them.

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And they did spoil and plunder even as their prey lay dying, taking ox and sheep and ass, and all the goods they had stored, and all that was good in their eyes.

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And when they gave thanks their prayers were in earnest, and they cried out for guidance that they might know what they should now do.

Holy Morr looked upon them and knew them to be his Devoted, despite that they were lied to by their false Shepherd. He knew that they had not forsaken him, though they were a trouble unto him. They were made unclean not of themselves, but by he who misled them, yet they could be made clean, ceasing to do all evil. And so Morr visited the shepherd in dreams, and troubled his spirit. And when the sleep broke from him the shepherd knew what must come to pass thereafter, and he was astonied, and at first knew not what to do, for the dream did make him afraid. So Morr took his hand to conduct him whither he was bound, and in turn the shepherd led his congregation to Remas, both he and they in dazed obedience.

Upon the journey the Devoted murmured amongst themselves, for they could see the consternation of their shepherd, and they were troubled by their thoughts, and Morr visited their dreams too that they might grow to suspect their shepherd and know him for what he was. And when they came to Remas they had come to know that Vallerius was a false prophet, and they bound him in fetters and delivered him into the hands of the Admonitor, that he might be judged according to the multitude of his sins, and that they too, in all humility, might be punished for the abominations they had done, for they knew they could not enter Morr’s garden carrying the burden of their sinfulness.

So they did scourge their flesh with flails and whips, the better to tear away their sins through painful subjection to Morr’s will. And for every blow they had struck against the innocent they administered a dozen blows unto their own bodies, in penance, and through this mortification they did purify themselves, and wash away all pride and arrogance, and all sinful thoughts.

And Morr revealed his wrath against the ungodly and unrighteous shepherd to the Admonitor, being the right-hand man of Father Carradalio, and made it known that Shepherd Vallerius must be punished for his iniquities. And the shepherd was taken to the field by the ruins of the Ludus Carracallus, in the company of several brothers of the Disciplinati di Morr, whom the Admonitor had declared to be blessed revengers fit to execute wrath upon him that hath done such evil.

In that place the shepherd knelt, for he could not stand before Morr’s indignation, and he knew full well what he had done and desired that he might be saved by Morr’s mercy. And he was pitiful in the brothers’ eyes. And prayers were said over him as he knelt, that his body might rest peacefully and that such a sinful soul as he would not rise from the grave to commit further wickedness.

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While the brothers watched and waited for the appointed time, the shepherd’s vileness did reveal itself for he began to curse them, that they be punished for what they were doing, but they did not revile him in return for they knew from his words that he had been judged righteously, and so took comfort that it was indeed Morr’s will that was to be done.

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And when the time came they smote him through his neck, and the blade went out at his throat.

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And when an hour had passed, the Devoted were brought to the place of execution. There the Admonitor delivered his admonishment, saying Hear my speech, and hearken to all my words. Your deeds may well have been inspired by Morr, howsoever misinterpreted by Shepherd Vallerius, who in his arrogance feigned an intimacy with Morr he did not possess. I have no doubt that you were driven by an earnest desire to serve Morr Most High, to cleanse both yourselves and the world of all that offends him, and so you sinned in ignorance. It was Vallerius who caused thee to err, but err you did, and you will be judged. What you did was evil in the eyes of Morr and you must pray for forgiveness as you have never prayed before, and you must learn humility in the face of Morr, and bow to the wisdom of those who are closest to him, and who hear his words most clearly.

Holy Morr does not whisper to our Holy Father Carradalio, but speaks loud and clear. You must not presume to know, from your own imaginings and convictions, what is right, nor what must be done, but rather must become fully obedient to the true church and its saints. You must prostrate yourselves before Morr’s altars, humble yourselves before his shrines, and offer yourselves body and soul into his service.

I shall hereby make atonement for your sins, and I will ask that Holy Morr forgive you, so that you may make afresh your covenant with Holy Morr.

And the holiest of books was brought to him that he might read from it and so bless them.

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And a priest did intone the necessary prayers before the reading.

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Beside him was the Blessed Ravern Standard that the Devoted were to pledge themselves to, as well as several of the most humble and holy priests of Remas …

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And the throng of the Devoted did listen unto the words and their hearts were lifted as they knew that they were cleansed of their sins in the eyes of the Lord Morr, and that their hearts were delivered of all tribulations, so that they might now go forth and fight against the vampires and their foul servants until they had gotten the victory over them.

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They were given a new Shepherd Marshall to govern them, and to lead them in battle. And the spirit of Morr filled them, until they cried as one, “Thanks be to Morr!”
 
Joined
Nov 10, 2007
Messages
231
#85
The End of Spring, IC2403

Part 2. A Letter from Antonio Mugello to my most noble Lord Lucca Vescucci of Verezzo

Forgive me, my lord, for the untidiness of my writing, but I am forced by circumstances to pen this missive both in haste and in conditions unconducive to neatness. For the first time in a long while I am not far from Verezzo, being merely a league south of Ridraffa, but the joy I should feel about my proximity to home is diminished by the news I send.

The brute tyrant, Razger Boulderguts, led his army from the beating he received south of Remas, travelling along the Via Diocleta. Neither the Remans nor the Pavonans sought to pursue him, for the former seemed happy enough that he had turned away from their realm, and the latter were in no fit state to attempt any further action in the field. Boulderguts retained the great train of loot he had plundered from Astiano and Pavona, as well as much of his strength. Indeed, it might even be that his own army has swelled in size, for whereas before the double army bore both his and Mangler’s standards at its fore, it is now reported that only Boulderguts’ colours are carried, and that the part of Mangler’s army remaining, still a substantial force, does not baulk at marching under those colours. Several brutes’ corpses were discovered in the army’s wake, some showing signs that they died from festering wounds received at the battle of Diocleta, but others, being the mightier sort, bearing fresh wounds apparently received in some internecine strife. Such evidences most likely indicate that Razger has wrested complete command of the entire force for himself.

Taking leave of the Reman and Pavonan army in Frascoti, I followed the brutes with several scouts, until I joined a party of Verezzan merchants seeking a safe way home. Upon learning that I was your servant, the chief amongst these merchants, your friend Alessandro Burlemacchi, offered whatever I needed to assist me in my duties, and so enabled me to ride close to the brute army in the company of his best guards, all the better to spy upon them. It soon became clear that Razger was not disheartened by his bloody brush with the dukes Guidobaldo and Scaringella, but instead sought to continue his spate of destruction and butchery. As his army approached Ridraffa, the bulging baggage train came to a halt whilst his grey-skinned warriors surged onwards in battle array.

The Ridraffans had made great efforts to fortify their walled city, circumvallating the entire periphery with earthworks and the ditches from which they were dug, defences which were both palisaded and studded with a forest of storm-poles. It seemed to me that the brutes would be sorely tried in the taking of the city, if even only a meagre garrison were available to man the works. But I did watch with mine own eyes as they marched on without once faltering, then surged over the works with no discernible delay.

The populace fled pell-mell from every gate, for the most part unburdened with possessions and goods, as if they had learned full well from the cruel fate of those towns and cities already fallen. Indeed, perhaps the only reason so many did escape was because they left their wealth, even their livestock, behind, for in so doing the brutes were consequently distracted, being fully occupied with the sharing of the spoils.

I myself met with several of those who fled, including Master Poliziano, secretary to the city council and cousin to the gonfalonieri. It was from him I first learned the terrible truth concerning how the city had fallen so suddenly, an account which sadly has been verified by others I have met since.

The garrison was weak, certainly in comparison to Razger’s force, but their defensive works were strong, and they had a card to play which the Ridraffans believed could save them – none other than the Wizard Lord Salvatore. All in Tilea know that when the ratto uomo swarm threatened to swallow Ridraffa in 2381, Gervasio Strozzi conjured magics so powerful that nigh upon half the swarm burned causing the rest to flee in fear, thus earning himself his new name.

Yet it was not to be so this time. Ancient as he was, his beard reputedly the longest and whitest born by any man south of the River Trantino, his bravery was undiminished. Indeed, perhaps he was too brave? For he was heard to say, “I need to get a little closer,” and before anyone could stop him he stepped outside the works.

All those present fell silent, apart from one horn-blower who was so intent upon sounding his call to arms that he alone did not notice, despite being one of those closest to Salvatore.

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Staff in hand, his large, crooked, green hat ensuring that every pair of ogre eyes could pick him out easily (especially when they sought out the blaring horn) he strode beyond even the storm poles. Perhaps he had become purblind in his old age? Or was so engrossed in his ethereal conjurations that he lost sight of this world and the many, mundane dangers it held in that moment? The soldiers stared in confusion …

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… as he spoke the words of his incantation. Those who saw it told me that upon completion, and the bringing down of his staff, for a moment it was as if the world stood still. And yet, the sky remained calm – not one wisp of cloud appeared, not the tiniest flicker of lightning, nor even the faintest echo of distant thunder.

The brutes had halted, perhaps as surprised as the Ridraffans, to join the momentary silence.

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Then one was heard to laugh, and another to shout, and then many more gave vent to angry cries, and they loosed a rain of missiles upon the old wizard: a spear-sized quarrel, a hail of leadshot and a whole mess of mangled metal. Inevitably, in the midst of it all, as the grassy ground churned about him and the storm poles at his side shivered to pieces, he fell.

Then, as suddenly as the horn fell silent, it’s blower belatedly aware of what was happening, the brute army lurched forwards. To their credit, I was told that not one Ridraffan fled, but instead they chose to fight, running from those parts of the works unthreatened by the foe to where the attack was to come.

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They loosed a hundred bolts, and drew every sword …

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… but to no avail, for the foe burst through the storm-poles as if leaping nothing more than toothpicks, and mounted the works as if they were but molehills, and there was nothing the defenders could do to stop them.

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In this way Ridraffa fell, every fighting man brutally slain and crushed under the heavy, iron-shod feet.

Against the advice of the guards with me, and yet with their brave acceptance of my decision, I lingered in the vicinity of the city, intent upon discovering the ogres’ intentions, whither they would go, for I was filled with dread at the prospect that they might choose to travel further south and so threaten your Lordship’s realm.

Razgers’ already huge baggage train swelled further as everything of value was dragged from Ridraffa. The ogres pressed every cart and wain, every carriage and coach, into their service, and still it was not enough (for many such conveyances had left the city in the days before their arrival). And so along with their greenskin servants they cobbled together carts of their own, taking wheels from barrows and gun-carriages, from the wrecked remains of abandoned wagons and the newly made stocks in the wheelwright’s workshops.

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I myself saw them, through a perspective glass, as they left the city gates, their myriad means of transport, a hotch-potch of creaking and rattling contraptions, hauled by everything from livestock to slaves and even ogres.

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I watched as long as I could, until my guards dragged me away for my own protection, and I can report only that they were obviously heading for the bridge over the River Riatti. What Razger intends once they have crossed, whether to travel further south towards Spomanti and thus threaten the whole of your realm, or to turn north once more, perhaps finally sated by their vast haul of plunder, I know not. I could not cross the bridge for they left several brutes upon it, perhaps as a rear guard, perhaps because not all their force has yet to depart Ridraffa.

Thus it is that am dispatching this letter to you, and two identical copies by different messengers to ensure its arrival, rather than carrying it myself. I intend to cross the bridge at the first opportunity, to continue following the brute army, and to learn as much as possible of their intentions.

I hope and pray that my next missive will bear good news. Your loyal and humble servant, Antonio Mugello.

Game Notes:
This story was derived from a battle and the events around it. I didn’t write a full report, however, as it was a quick game (taking the time for lots of pictures and notes was impossible) and it didn’t seem ‘interesting’ enough, in that we both knew who would win. A part of me was glad I didn’t take detailed notes because I made a shocking and stupid decision in the first turn which, without a doubt, cost me the game – or at the least to the chance to do any significant damage to the ogres.

Jamie is the campaign participant playing Razger Boulderguts, while I (campaign GM) commanded the NPC force defending the small city of Ridraffa. I had modelled some new defences for the city, to expand those I had already made, and I used some newly painted generic militia figures as part of the defending force. When I realised 850 points was trying to take a nearly 3000 pt enemy, I thought to game was pointless, but then I remembered that the players ‘ realms and major NPC realms were allowed to have a free ‘ruler lord’. So I decided that the Ridraffans could have a level 3 Wizard lord too. Combined with sturdy defences then … Game on!

Except, as described in Mugello’s letter above, in the first turn I decided to risk walking the wizard out to get within range to attempt chain lightning. I thought I needed to maximise the number of chances I had that magic might swing in my favour.

Here is a shot of the moment from the actual game …


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I didn't take into account the scraplauncher, pistol-toting Maneaters and the Hunter with giant crossbow. I should have done.

Needless to say, it did not go well. Salvatore could not save himself (ironic) and died. And the ogres walked the rest of it. The only real harm the Ridraffans managed was to destroy the last of the ogre’s leadbelchers, to the point where the unit couldn’t recover. Considering, however, that the loot gained from razing such a small city could buy the lost Leadbelchers several times over, I doubt Jamie minded.

Still, it made writing the brief account above easy, and it wasn’t a run of the mill sort of battle!
 
Joined
Nov 10, 2007
Messages
231
#86
The End of Spring, IC2403

3. Shooting at the Butts
(Terrene, part of the city state of Verezzo)


At Poliena, the largest settlement in Terrene, that part of the city state of Verezzo inhabited almost wholly by halflings, the afternoon was as pleasant as could be expected. Three regulars were taking in the sun outside the Hairy Hog alehouse, supping of the best the landlord had to offer. In many ways, for them, this was no different to any other afternoon, except that they were dressed in blue and yellow livery, and had a very important visitor.

Pablo was drinking deep of his cup, so that ale ran down his chin.

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“Best not over do it,” suggested Tino. “We have to put on a good show.”

Pablo, who heard him, continued to gulp down his ale, while Benneto, who was not listening, stared absently at what was happening on the green. Tino watched with raised eyebrows until Pablo drained his tankard then slammed it down on the table.

After wiping his chin with the back of his hand, Pablo hiccuped, then gave a silly smile. Tino’s brow furrowed, which made Pablo smile all the more. He threw in a chuckle for good measure.

“I heard you,” Pablo said, before Tino could give vent to the inevitable complaint. “I just think my shooting’s better with a belly full. Steadies my aim, see?”

“Makes you care less about your aim, you mean," said Tino. “You’re lucky Lord Vescucci is twice your height otherwise he'd smell the ale on your breath.”

“But all soldiers drink before battle.”

“Ha! This ain’t battle. This is us showing our lord what we can do.”

The silly smile reappeared on Pablo’s face. “All’s well and good then, ‘cos drinking’s what I do best,” he said.

The word ‘battle’ had jolted Benneto out of his dreamy daze. His brow furrowed. “You think we really will have to fight?” he asked.

“Ridraffa’s fallen, so it’s likely we’re next,” explained Tino. “Boulderguts has ravaged his way through Tilea. Why would he suddenly decide to stop unless someone stops him?”

“But no-one has stopped him, neither Pavonans or Remans, and not for want of trying.”

“That they haven’t,” agreed Tino, somberly. “But they must have hurt him.”

“How can you know that?” demanded Bennetto.

“I know because he did not try to take the city of Remas, where gold is piled high. And they say he passed through Frascoti in such a hurry that his brutes took barely anything from it.”

“But they didn’t rush by Ridraffa, did they?” argued Benetto. “They bashed everyone’s heads in and took all they could. Which is a lot.”

"Ridraffa isn’t Verezzo," said Tino. "We have an army, they only had some militia and a handful of mercenaries.”

“Oh aye, an army that includes us. Great!” said Benetto. He plucked an arrow from his quiver and laid it on the table. “Will our shafts even pierce the brutes' flesh deep enough for them to notice?”

“We’ll just have to see, won’t we? The only alternatives are to run away from our homes, or wait to be served on their platters.”

The three fell silent for a moment, then Pablo piped up.

“Best have another ale then? While we can.”



Upon the green before them a company of archers were already letting loose at the butts. They too were liveried, apart from the hunter Roberto Cappuccio, known to all his friends as Pettirosso, who always favoured green despite his nickname.

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Their weapons looked like longbows would in a man’s hand, yet they were no longer than what men called bows. Every fellow there had practiced regularly since youth, honing his skill and strengthening the muscles (moreso on one side of his body than the other). They could match the range and punch of a human bow, but they hit the mark more frequently, and they could generally shoot for longer, provided there was some nourishment to hand to keep their spirits up. And they were just as well practiced at ensuring there was always food to hand.

The village constable, Giusto Corumo, was also watching the practice, his two brothers by his side, his big baton resting on his shoulder.

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It was his responsibility to muster the militia, though not to lead them in war. He was the stepping stone that took the able-bodied from the world of peace to field of battle; or more accurately, the short-tempered, foul-mouthed, club bearing elder who roused them, rounded them up and presented them to the military officers. For many a year he had rallied the rabble to ready them for their bi-annual drills, with no shortage of cruel jests to shame them into activity. This morning his tone had been just different enough, however, that nearly every somewhat surprised warrior recognised there was something different going on, and not just because the muster was a little earlier in the season than usual. The constable had also rushed like he had never before done, rousing every eligible soldier from each and every village and hamlet in less than four hours, which was no mean feat for a fellow as stout as he, especially when garbed in an iron breastplate to add to his military countenance. And they were right to be suspicious, for this was no mere holiday drill, this was the real thing. Their Lord, Conte Lucca Vescucci of Verezzo, had summoned them to make ready for war.

The conte had arrived at noon, just as several many of the gathered archers were beginning to hope that the muster was some sort of mistake, and he had immediately asked that the several companies show them what they can do. He had only a small company of guards with him, which included the handful of halflings who attended upon him at court in Verezzo. At first, Lord Lucca seemed uninterested in their drill, but rather wanted to see their skill with their bows. So began an archery tournament lasting the afternoon, which the conte observed intently.

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One rank at a time, the halflings came before him, planted their shafts in the ground, then began loosing them at the butts. This would go on until Lord Lucca cried “Enough! Well done. Bring the next.” Then an army of younglings would pluck arrows from the butts while one rank marched as best they could away and another took their place. Always a thorough man, being a natural philosopher and organiser of his realm’s affairs, taking great care over matters of trade, finance and agriculture, studiously acquiring the knowledge he needed to keep his realm prosperous and safe, he was showing the same attention to detail here. As the afternoon lengthened, it became clear he intended to witness the skill of each and every archer, to see for himself whether (to a lad) they could be relied upon.
And as time wore on he seemed to relax somewhat, for rank after rank showed impressive consistency in their aim, peppering the targets’ centres with ever more holes, while leaving the periphery virtually unblemished.

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All was done in a leisurely, sedate manner, like a lazy game of stoolball on a late summer’s afternoon, until almost everyone was thinking of the fine evening that must naturally follow this sport, with a pleasant pipe or two and a jar or three of ale.

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But the slow pace was due to Lord Lucca’s usual thoroughness, rather than any lack of urgency, and as the last company was dismissed (looking forward to their first drink of the night) he turned to the attending captains and ordered that the whole militia now assemble. He intended to inspect their brigade drill.



Within a quarter of an hour the halfling militia had drawn themselves up into two bodies, being four ranks each but arrayed in double width and so presenting as two double length ranks. Each company had its own colour, red and blue, as indicated by their flags' edgings.

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Lord Lucca was joined by Barone Iacopo Brunetti, the lord of Poliena. The barone would have cut quite a dash, cloaked and clad in armour upon his stout pony, if it were not for the conte’s contrasting bulk. Still, Iacopo’s pony bucked and reared as if keen for a fight, and he brandished his sword as he gave commands for the captains to repeat.

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Once their manoeuvres were done, having doubled their front, countermarched and demonstrated the neatness of their dressings, they halted. The conte, apparently satisfied, now ordered them to stand, and began a short speech.

“You all know why you have been called forth this day. All of Tilea knows of the evils that beset our land - how other cities have suffered indignities at the least, and destruction at the worst. That will not happen to our dear Verezzo, for you and I will not allow it. Today you have proved yourself more than fit for any fight ahead. To a soldier you shoot well, and as a body you are as well drilled as any mercenary, or even any palazzo guard. Long practice has made you this way, and all that effort was done for this day. This e’en, first sharpen your arrowheads and fix your flights; hone your blades and look to all the trappings you need for war. Make these things as fit for battle as your yourselves have proven today to be. Whether brutes come or the unliving, or both, we shall be ready for them, and they shall learn that what is ours cannot be taken from us, and that we will not allow those we love to be harmed. The men of Verezzo and Spomanti, and the halflings of Terrene will stand strong together, each being the best I could hope for, and each complementing the other to forge a fighting force of courage and skill.

“Myrmidia has watched us today, and I know she will be pleased. Tonight, when every edge is as sharp as a razor, every bow waxed and all the armour oiled, say a quiet prayer to dedicate yourselves to her, and ask her to guide both you, your captains and myself in the days and weeks to come. Then, fill your flagons and drink a health in her honour!”

“Evviva!” came the cheer, again and again, as the Alfieri flourished the colours aloft.

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.....................
Note: I am SO happy to have some regiments of halflings in my collection at last.
 
Joined
Nov 10, 2007
Messages
231
#87
The End of Spring, IC2403

4. The Machinery of Government
(The City of Remas)


After a momentary delay in an ante-chamber, whilst word of his visit was sent aloft, a servant had led Brother Marsilio up the stairs and let him into the studio, opening the door in silence. Upon entering, Marsilio was pleased to discover a spacious, brightly lit chamber, infused with an aura of calm. It contained several well-stocked bookshelves. Manuscripts, maps and books littered a large, central table and intriguing technical schemata adorned the walls. One might expect such a profusion of papers to create a cluttered effect, but here they advertised the operations of a creative mind, the product of orderly, organised thought. After the tension of the streets, with every interaction, even the merest, momentary glance, either fearful or suspicious it was a blessed relief to step into this room.

The occupant, hunched over the table whilst perusing a thick tome, was so deep in contemplation that he did not look up. Marsilio stepped in, lightly, and used the opportunity to take a deep breath, soothing his excitable heart. A combination of nervousness, the disturbing world outside, and the climbing of the steep stairs, had worked together to put a strain upon his sanguine organ. The air tasted of books - of paper and the mite-ridden dust raised whenever it is disturbed after a long slumber, of old leather bindings and the mould harboured within. There was peace even in the smell of the room. Marsilio had not thought he would find such calm in any part of the city, such was his fear of being discovered at least as an emissary from the arch-lector, at worst as a prospective thief. His enjoyment lasted no longer than that breath, however, for upon remembering he must now reveal his true purpose, the fear returned.

The leaded glass of the windows was thick enough to dull the sound of the street below, so that when Marsilio’s next step drew forth a groaning creak from a wooden board, the noise was startling enough for the maestro to look up from his studies.

“Oh, good brother. Forgive me my distraction, please. The written word entrances me as well as any enchantment, conjuring a tumbling torrent of ideas in which I am like to drown. Who knows how long I would have splashed helplessly in those scholarly waters had you not saved me?”

Maestro Angelo smiled, apparently enjoying his little joke. “Come hither,” he instructed, “so that I may see you a little better. My eyes grow lazy when reading so long.”

Marsilio walked over to the table. The maestro wore a tight-fitting hood and a surcoat of Reman livery, with a heavy silver chain about his shoulders. His neatly trimmed beard had almost succumbed entirely to grey, but it was his widely spaced eyes and flattened nose that drew people’s immediate notice. He was clutching his book in one hand, as if the weight were of no consequence.

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“It is you who must forgive my intrusion, maestro. I am Brother Marsilio, and I am here upon a matter of some import.”

“Isn’t everyone, these days?” said Angelo with a smile. “Death hangs over us all. Not that it ever leaves mortal man’s side, but of late it has inched a good deal closer, and now we smell its foul breath each and every moment. Do you know, it has even found its way into my dreams?”

Marsilio was not surprised. He knew that Angelo had been present at the Battle of Ebino when the arch-lector Calictus had died, his army scattered, and all at the hands of monstrous legions of undead.

“If you please,” offered Marsilio, “I could offer a prayer to help you sleep a little easier, for Morr rules over our nightly slumbers as well as out eternal repose.”

“Why not, brother? Of late, it seems the only prayers spoken are meant to disturb, not soothe.”

Maestro Angelo now gave Marsilio a piercing gaze, studying him intently.

“You were not sent by the Praepositus Generalis,” he said.

“No, maestro. I think all his fanatics are out upon the streets, to witness your new machine. Indeed, I hope that is all of them, for if there are more then surely the entire citizenry has succumbed to the fury.”

Angelo smiled at this. He was not a handsome man, not least because his flat nose looked like that of an experienced pit fighter, being the result of a famous injury received in youth during a somewhat impetuous experiment to test human flight by the use of artificial wings. Marsilio had noticed one of the large papers upon the wall showed just such an artefact.

“I have come from the arch-lector, his Holiness Bernado,” continued Marsilio, hesitantly. “I was sent … sent to ask you …”

Here he faltered, and Maestro Angelo’s smile grew broader.

“There is not much that is easy these days, brother, not even the asking of a question, eh? You need not rush. First, I would like to ask you a thing or two, if you will oblige me.”

“Yes, maester. Whatever you wish to know.”

“I heard Duke Scaringella died upon the Via Diocleta, but what of our army? None have returned to the city. Is it decimated?”

“No, it survived almost wholly intact. The arch-lector has command of it.”

“So easily? And he a churchman?”

“He had precedent enough,” explained Marsilio. “His holiness led several parts of the army before, as well as fighting by their side at Viadaza and upon the Via Diocleta. He has both the soldiers’ respect and their willing obedience.”

“Their obedience? I heard our soldiers razed Frascoti, looting it as thoroughly as Razger’s Ogres would have done had they not rushed by so hurriedly.”

Marsilio had not realised the depth of the lies being told in the city. “That is not true, maestro. We have set up camp there, to defend it and the rest of Remas from any further aggression by the Razger’s brutes. The people there have not been harmed. They’re thankful of our presence. Some of our soldiers are themselves Frascotans.”

“I do know our Pavonan allies are not with the army,” said Angelo. “Duke Guidobaldo brought his wounded son here, and his army too. Was there no room at Frascoti? Or perhaps there was some disagreement between him and the arch-lector?”

“None that I know of. The Pavonan army was very badly mauled, and their departure was not considered a great loss to the defence of Frascoti. Besides, in such times, why shouldn’t Duke Guidobaldo keep the last of his soldiers near?” Marsilio paused, then asked. “You mentioned the duke’s son. How fares the young Lord Polcario? His holiness bade me ask.”

“Oh, sadly he has lost an eye, but otherwise should recover well enough. I myself have visited him, advising his doctors as best I could,” said Angelo.

It cheered Marsilio to know he could can return with at least one happy thing to tell the arch-lector.

“One might ask,” said Angelo, fixing Marsilio in his gaze, “why the duke and the arch-lector would want the Pavonan army camped so close to the city. Their presence is generally considered unwelcome. What few Pavonan soldiers have snuck into the city, breaking their agreement, have been dealt with roughly, in accordance with Carradalio’s orders. It seems he does not trust them even to enter the city singly.”

Was the maestro trying to get military intelligence from him? And if so, then perhaps his allegiance did indeed lie with the fanatics. “I will not lie and claim to know that which I do not,” he said, “but I do not believe the Pavonans’ proximity is a tactical ruse. I know the Duke wanted the best doctors to attend Lord Polcario. And as a healthy, strong Remas makes a better friend for him in his time of dire need, then why would he do anything other than foster harmony between the divided factions of Remas. I greatly doubt he intends to fan the flames of civil war.”

“He does not need to, that fire burns well enough without any help,” mused Angelo. “He does not appear to be in any rush to return to his own ruined realm. Carradalio sent a father superior to minister to the duke’s army – one Rosello di Franchi, a Pavonan himself, although of a somewhat dubious background. By Rosello’s leave Duke Guidobaldo’s soldiers can forage to feed themselves, but must in return attend the father superior’s services, and harken to his sermons. Perhaps Carradalio thinks thus to bend the Pavonans to his will rather than their own lord’s? Even to make dedicants of them?”

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Marsilio frowned, for this all sounded very familiar. “He sent just such a man to our army at Frascoti, who preaches fulsome praise for our victory and our brave defence of Remas, ensuring all and sundry hear his words, from the greatest to the least. Of course, woven amongst his words are all the old Sagrannalian heresies.”

“Well, Carradalio successfully wrested control of great and ancient Remas. Why stop there? His star is in the ascendant and the gods obviously favour him. Both armies have good reasons to hear his message: the Pavonans share his predilection to worship Holy Morr Supreme, while many amongst our own army have friends and family in the city.”

“Of that I am not too sure, maestro,” said Marsilio. He had heard the sermons himself, and seen the soldiers’ disdain. “It seems to me that our soldiers do not enjoy being preached to about the war by those who have not fought in it. Do I take it from your words that you do not like Father Carradalio, then?” he asked the maestro.

A reluctant grin spread upon Angelo’s face. “Now there’s a real question. Affection is not required for respect. And in a time of war, men of action are required. He is definitely that. He and his followers can stir a pot to the very dregs. They can turn a whole city upside down.”

“You have made a war engine for them,” said Marsilio. “I saw it myself on my way here, being pulled through crowded streets. I was surprised you were not with it. You rode your steam engine before Calictus.”

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Angelo shook his head. “I could not bear to accompany it, to be in those crowds. When I returned to the city I found what I found, whether I liked it or not. Yet Remas is my home. I offered the Praepositus Generalis a new engine to buy his favour, so that I might not suffer whatever ignominies he would otherwise demand of me. The work was as nothing compared to my steam engine, but he does not know that. In truth this engine was already almost completed, having been laid aside when I commenced work upon the last. The glasses were ground, the mounting done. All that was required was to assemble the parts. I had originally envisaged it as armament for the steam engine, but then Remas acquired a remarkable artillery piece, and when I saw what it could do I chose instead to mount that.”

“However it was made,” asked Marsilio, “will this new engine not wreak destruction upon the foe?”

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“Oh, I assure you, it is capable of truly awful effect. As to how reliable it is, I cannot say. The artillery piece depended upon the quality of the black powder and the expertise of the gunners. This machine relies on the vagaries of the winds of magic, and the mathematical cunning with which its glasses are deployed.”

“It looks impressive, I can assure you.”

The maestro narrowed his eyes, then asked, “Did you see who rode upon it?”

“Two men, both in clerical robes. One fellow, an old man, bald on top with tufts of hair sticking out from the side, was holding a skull aloft.”

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“Oh yes, he came with them for the machine. I showed him as best I could how it should be used. I heard they tested it yesterday upon a blaspheming heretic – some drunken fool who questioned aloud whether Morr had abandoned us. They tied him to a stake at a hundred paces distance and in a few moments burned his body to ashes from the neck down. Only his head remained, and that fleshless.”

“Thus the skull?” suggested Marsilio.

“Aye, thus the skull,” said Angelo.

“How does it work?

“By an ingenious alignment of dioptrical glasses and prismatical crystals through which both natural and aetheric light are conjoined and congelated, refracted, multiplied and projected. The central glass is mounted upon a helical axle, allowing subtle adjustments of the interspatial lengths, so that the glasses can be arranged perfectly to concentrate and maximise the emitted heat. Or, to put it more bluntly” - here the smile returned, but in a pained form - “it burns people. Let us hope it burns the undead just as well.”

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“Unlike my previous creation, this is no automaton, for it requires a team of draught animals to pull it, with all their inherent weaknesses. In truth, the work was done in great haste, which seemed to please Father Carradalio and his strange companions more than care or craftsmanship would.”

“They have found good, strong horses, maestro, and armoured them well.”

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“Well they might,” said Angelo, the bitterness plain in his voice. “For they killed all those left in the city who might otherwise have had the skill to ride them.”

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Marsilio could see the maestro’s anguish and thought it best to speak an appropriate prayer.

“Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine: et lux perpetua luceat eis,” he intoned, quietly.

“Amen,” Angelo said. “I see you know these dedicants exactly for what they are. I confess, I was too afraid to be there today. I thought only to spend some time here, in contemplation, hoping their present satisfaction would mean I was undisturbed. Yet, my part in all this weighs on me. Tell me, what else did you see?”

“They chanted as they accompanied the machine, carrying a holy relic before it …

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… and a ragged banner behind.

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I saw it pass down the Via del Marcutto, the entire street lined with dedicants.

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Father Carradalio himself watched it, standing upon the roof of the Cappella dei Santo Corvo.

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His Admonitor was beside him. His hooded guards behind.”

“That is all?” asked Angelo. “They hauled it through the streets. Nothing more?”

Marsilio could not fathom what concerned the maestro. “Just that.”

“Good. Would that I could ensure it was only ever used upon Remas’s enemies.”

Now Marsilio understood. The Maestro felt guilt about gifting such an engine of war to such a faction.

A smile, tinged with regret, returned to Angelo’s face. “Brother, what exactly have you come to ask of me?”

“The arch-lector wants you to leave the city with me. He believes your place is with the true army of Remas, the true church of Morr, and not with an unsanctioned, schismatical and rebellious fraternity of thugs. Remas and Tilea stand upon the brink of destruction, and the fate of every living soul is in the balance. Carradalio and his fanatics are a symptom of these terrible times. They are not the cure.”

“And yet,” interrupted Angelo, “they possess a faith strong enough to make them fearless in battle, and would to die to a man facing any monstrous foe. I myself witnessed their kind in battle at Ebino. Our horse fought bravely, but were finally overwhelmed and fled. Knights, Arabyans, even elves, all galloped pell-mell from the field. Not the flagellants - they strode boldly forth to plung deep into the foe. Not one turned to run. And this was done when the battle was surely lost. They feared neither death nor defeat.”

“Does such martydom win wars?” asked Marsilio. “Their flagellatory frenzies mean that even in victory they suffer terrible losses. And when they look to replenish their ranks, they will discover the realm they themselves ravaged has very little left to offer. I do not doubt they could win a battle. But the war?”

“You have just seen their host swarming on the streets, certainly sufficient to field an army. Everyone knows they are capable of terrible and bloody cruelties. Whatever horrors they face, and whatever horrible deeds they themselves must commit, they will not falter.”

“But do they have the military discipline and cunning to gain victory in a war? Do they even remember Myrmidia’s name? I grant you, their numbers have swollen. Yet to achieve this they have wreaked havoc, divided Remas, slaughtered the best citizens, and destroyed much in the way of industry and husbandry. And all this they did while the ogres burned Stiani.”

“Well, no one can doubt their fervour. They’re willing to do anything for the love of Morr. Father Carradalio seems filled with the spirit of Morr.”

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“As is the arch-lector,” countered Marsilio. “Perhaps Carradalio even hears the same words when Morr whispers in his dreams? But there is a great difference between the praepositus generalis and the arch-lector. Both have accepted Morr’s command to act, immediately and decisively. In this they are the same. But what his holiness has done in response to that call is not at all the same. As Carradalio fermented civil upset, his holiness led armies against foul foes. As the Disciplinati stirred Sagrannalian schisms, the church’s true clergy inspired soldiers to face almost certain death fighting monsters. For every riot Carradalio’s followers instigated, for every massacre they inflicted, the Reman army fought vampires, ogres and monsters. Carradalio watched the streets of Remas and Palomtrina run with the blood of innocents, while his holiness rode sword in hand at Pontremola, at Viadaza and upon the Via Diocleta. The Disciplinati di Morr have inflicted their frenzied fury upon the weak, while the army of Remas stood firm and faithful, even unto death, against the true foe. You yourself were at Viadaza and Ebino.”

Angelo was not smiling now. He stared into space, at a sight his memory had conjured for him. “Father Carradalio fears what is coming. I know what is coming,” he said.

“As does his holiness. Carradalio, in his own way, thinks to prepare Remas for the fight ahead. But the army, his holiness, yourself, are already in the fight, and have been for a long time. Remas must made strong if it is to survive, by fostering unity, not division. Soldiers, militia, priests and brothers must serve together, under one command, otherwise disorder and disharmony will lead to destruction.”

“And how would that unity be achieved? Is the army to fight the Disciplinati? There’s disorder. And only more destruction.”

“Carradalio holds Remas in his grip. If he took it in the hope of saving it, then there is still hope. If his true intention is tyrannical rule, Remas’ ruin is certain. His holiness cannot accept Carradalio’s secular authority, no matter how complete - not unless the Overlord Matuzzi personally, and whilst under no form of duress whatsoever, asks him to do so.”

“That’s unlikely,” said Angelo. “I was allowed to tend the overlord’s injuries after they took him hostage. However old and frail he might be, there’s spirit enough left in him to hate Carradalio for what he has done.”

“No matter,” said Marsilio. “Even without the overlord’s blessing, his holiness is willing to accept Carradalio’s authority over his own followers.”

“Despite all he has done?”

“Only a fool would refuse the Disciplinati’s fighting strength and fervour in this time of need. All Carradalio need do is declare his obedience to the orthodox and Holy Church of Morr, bending his knee to Morr’s anointed pontiff.”

“And just like that, all his past transgressions will be forgiven?”

The maestro was being facetious, but Marsilio chose to ignore the fact. “And the praepositus generalis and his dedicants will be declared to be true servants of Morr, accepted into the fold of the church, that they might pursue exactly that which it they have always declared to be their sole, true purpose – to defeat the evil foe.”

“So why am I to come with you now?” asked Angelo.

“In case it all goes wrong,” said Marsilio.

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Note: The first picture in this post is my new favourite of all the pictures I have ever made. That scene is the size of the inside of a shoe box, and the daylight coming through the windows is actually from my figure-painting lamp!
 
Joined
Nov 10, 2007
Messages
231
#88
Note: I am so glad your forum frames my text and pictures the way it does - you have it tuned perfectly. Other forums chop the pictures up or have the text running off the screen or have the text so small and the lines so long as to be unreadable to the human eye!

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The End of Spring, IC2403

5. Karak Borgo


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King Jaldeog III of the dwarven mountain realm of Karak Borgo was not the most imposing of dwarfs. His beard looked the part, the very essence of a royal chin ornament, being suitably grey and cultivated to a width almost twice that of his head. Not that his head was small, but a size perfectly satisfactory for dwarven royalty. In particular, his nose could hold its own, a proboscis to be proud of, which indeed he was. It was the rest of him that let things down, for he was almost as short as a full-grown dwarf can be (if such backwards reasoning makes any sense), making his companion, his chancellor Obor Darkforge, seem quite massive in comparison. Even seated upon his throne, which raised his majesty’s feet a good foot and a half above the ground, his head was no higher than Darkforge’s.

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Perhaps this was why Jaldeog favoured somewhat humble attire, unlike most other dwarven monarchs? No golden crown for him, nor even a horned-helm edged with silver filigree. No armoured plates of engraved mithric, nor even a cloak trimmed with the shaggy fur of some legendary beast. Instead, upon his head he wore a simple cloth cap, and his armour was an entirely unadorned mail shirt. Did he believe he would look ridiculous in the garb of a hero? If it were ever possible to encounter him alone upon a mountain path, a stranger would presume him to be a mere old soldier, and of the lowliest kind. As he himself was fond of joking, he was not mutton dressed as lamb, but lamb dressed as mutton.

Two braziers smouldered behind him, the warmth of which gently penetrated his stone throne, warming his royal arse. He fiddled with his pipe and belt bag of tobacco, both being companions even more constant than Darkforge. Before him stood his two most important thanes, Asgrod Steelshaper and Narhak Thundersword, and the master of the watch, Vagroth Ashhelm. Chancellor Darkforge had summoned them to be questioned concerning matters military and political, especially the progress of the plan to re-open the iron road trade route by defeating the wizard Lord Niccolo of Campogrotta and his army of ogri.

After a sniff, a cough, and some more fiddling with the spent ash in the bowl of his clay pipe, the king eventually spoke.

“The Bretonnian. Let’s start with him, eh?”

Vagroth, Master of the Watch, answered. “My liege, word has come concerning the force he commands. As you yourself suspected, it is not impressive.”

“Nor is his claim to Campogrotta,” said Asgrod, Thane of Deephall.

“True,” said the king. “But if the king of Bretonnia has given his blessing, that lends respect to his name in the realms of men. I won’t go to all this effort only to have the humans entangled in a civil war afterwards. As long as he’s a legitimate contender, I’m happy to have him as an ally.”

“The Ravolan way has always been that might is right,” said Vagroth. “They fight tourneys to decide upon a new lord. Baron Garoy is not what anyone would call ‘mighty’.”

The king gave a sound, half snort, half laugh, dropping some of the tobacco he had been stuffing into his pipe. “He doesn’t have to be mighty. Not if there’s no-one else to fight the tourney. No-one of consequence, anyway. Once Ravola is taken, he’ll rule long enough to make a start putting things back the way they were. That’s all we need.”

“He promised much more, my liege, than what he brings,” said Vagroth. “He has merely a handful of mounted men-at-arms, the rest of his company being only the Brabanzon mercenaries we paid for, archers and spearmen, a villainous looking lot too.”

“We don’t need him to bring a big army. Our own gold has bolstered his meagre force sufficiently. Besides, we have even more mercenaries - a whole army of them!”

King Jaldeog fixed his eyes on Narhak, Thane of Dravaz, who was now standing by the thane of Deephall. Both thanes held hammers in their hands, the first a warhammer of iron, the second a large mallet of oak. The latter was an ancient and magically blessed artefact gifted by the elves of Tettoverde Forest to Narhak’s father during an old alliance against the Skaven. It had no runes inscribed on it, nor a scrap of iron, steel or even brass about it, and yet it could break stone, and had once killed three goblins with one swing. The fact Narhak was proud to bear an elven-made weapon marked him out as unusual amongst dwarfs. He was stubborn enough to ignore the petty slights – apart from direct insults of course. His unusual link to the elves was the very reason he had been ordered to take command of affairs to the south.

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“What news, Narhak, of the Compagnia?” asked the king. “Are they bringing what they promised?”

“They have crossed the sea,” answered the thane, “and landed all that was promised, perhaps more. The crossing was not easy, for the ships’ captains are somewhat reluctant to venture into those waters, what with the war against the zangrunaz duchess, and more sightings of thagorakki vessels.”

“Wisht, Narhak,” ordered the king. “I’ve enough to think about with these ogri. Let’s deal with one problem at a time, starting close to home, eh? We can contend with the undead abominations and the scuttling horde later.” The king seemed to have forgotten his pipe. “Will the mercenaries reach Campogrotta before Razger returns?” he asked.

“They’re upon the march, by way of Scorccio,” said Thane Narhak. “I know not how they intend to get past the zangrunaz’s forces. I suggested they use the same way Boulderguts used when travelling south. He avoided entanglement with the undead.”

“Ah,” said Darkforge, “but that might be because of an alliance between the zangrunaz duchess and the wizard lord.”

“That may be, but the route will keep them some distance from Ebino,” said Narhak. “Granted, it will take them longer to skirt wide enough, my liege, but I reckon they can get here unmolested. My own rangers report it is very quiet along the Tarano and the Bellagio, and both rivers are low for the time of year. Tettoverde is quiet too. I suggested to the rangers that they might lead the army through the forest as there is an ancient path from where the Bellagio bends north up to Tarano Keep.”

“Well and good,” said the king. “But I ask again. Will they get to Campogrotta before Boulderguts?”

Narhak hesitated, so it was Thane Asgrod who answered,

“No-one can promise that, my liege. The news from the south is confused. The ogri appear to be almost everywhere, the zangrunaz everywhere else. But by your leave, my liege, might I suggest that perhaps the mercenaries do not need to beat Boulderguts in the race? From all the reports it seems the ogri have rampaged far and wide, burning a wide swathe of destruction upon their … what was the word Baron Garov used … ‘chevauchee’, aye. Boulderguts has done this without reinforcements from Campogrotta. If any such had left the city our rangers would have seen them – the ogri are not exactly quiet, nor sneaky. And no more ogri have come through the Appucinni passes. Boulderguts has fought several battles, no doubt enriching himself considerably in the process, but each time he fought his force must have dwindled. It is reported his hireling, Mangler, is dead, and both ogri armies have been severely mauled. Between our own warriors, the Condottierri Mazallini’s soldiers and whatever Baron Garov brings, we can surely defeat whatever force he limps back with. And if …”

“Ah,” interrupted the king, prompting Asgrod to fall silent, “yet is it certain we can defeat both him and the forces his master Lord Niccolo has at Campogrotta?”

At first, no-one spoke, and the king took the opportunity to put his pipe to his mouth, having forgotten it was not yet lit.

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“Can we not destroy them piecemeal, my liege?” asked Asgrod.

“Aye, likely so,” said the king somewhat nonchalantly. “That means we must ensure they do not join forces.” He held his hand to his mouth, as if pondering, but also perhaps signalling that the others should remain silent as he did so. “Best to begin with Boulderguts’ army. Defeat him first, at some remove from Campogrotta. If instead we besiege the city and the work becomes protracted, that could give bloody Boulderguts all the time he needs to return. Then we’d face them all, front and rear. Defeat Boulderguts first and we shall have all the time we need to take the city.”

There was nodding and a murmur of agreement from all those gathered. The king took the opportunity to rummage for more tobacco from his pouch and to further pack his pipe’s voluminous bowl. He may have been small for a dwarf, but he made up for it by doing nothing by halves. When he slept, he slept several hours longer than most. When he ate, he feasted upon sufficient to satisfy two. And when he smoked, he liked to send fumes curling into every nook and cranny of the hall.

At last, Darkforge noticed what the king was doing and stepped up to take the pipe to the brazier. While he did so the king leaned forwards upon his throne and asked,

“Besides what’s at Campogrotta, what forces does Lord Nicolo have elsewhere?”

“Nothing much, my liege” said Vagroth, “and that only in Ravola.”

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“Are you certain?”

“Those few Ravolans who escaped into the mountains looking for succour …”

“Which alone shows how desperate they were!” interrupted Darkforge.

“Aye. Well,” continued Vagroth, “those that did told us there are very few ogri at what remains of Ravola. My rangers report that the ogri ate almost everything, man and beast, and stole all else of worth.”

The king was nodding. “Which would be why there’s little in the way of forces there. Why bother to garrison in strength if there’s nothing left to guard?”

“It is not entirely abandoned,” said Vagroth. “I reckon they left a company or two simply to keep an eye on the Nuvolonc Pass.”

“Didn’t they destroy the fortress at Maratto?” asked the king.

“They did, my liege, so they now garrison Ravola instead. I have warned Baron Garov, and ordered my rangers to bring him another way. Should be easy enough in summer. They could probably defeat what few ogri are there but then we would lose the element of surprise.”

Again the hall fell quiet, as King Jaldeog drank in the first pull of smoke from his pipe. Having released a pleasantly coiled cloud, he asked,

“If there’s an alliance between the zangunaz duchess and Lord Niccolo, then Boulderguts might be reinforced upon his return journey. Or perhaps the wizard lord will call upon his allies to relieve him of our seige?”

“My liege,” said Darkforge, “would even he invite the likes of her foul followers to his realm?”

Vagroth raised his hand and spoke.

“Some say that Lord Niccolo is a zangunaz himself, which is why he stays so hidden, and why he has lived so long. If so, he might have his own undead forces, and would not forbear inviting such into his realm.”

“As far as we know,” said Narhak, “the ogri and this zangunaz have not fought side by side before. The reports of their alliance are but speculation, never mind the claims that he himself is undead.”

“Aye,” added Vagroth. “That’s true. The ogri even fought against the zangunaz Adolfo at Viadaza.”

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“That may well have been trickery,” offered Asgrod. “Lulling their real enemies into a false sense of security, while they planned their great raid. If they had not been slaughtered by the army uprising at Viadaza, they most likely would have turned against their Reman ‘allies’, perhaps an act of assassination, or treachery at a crucial moment in battle?”

“We shall assume nothing,” said the king, authoritatively. “And we shall act quickly. Our warriors must be ready to march as soon as the Bretonnian arrives. We’ll march to meet the mercenaries, and if we cannot get to them first then we’ll pincer the enemy between us.”

There were ‘Ayes’ all around.
 
Joined
Nov 10, 2007
Messages
231
#89
For part 6 of The End of Spring, IC2403, please see 8th Ed, Holy War - Carpe Noctem. It was placed in the thread because it had some undead figures in it, during the time I wasn't posting here due to the damage photobucket had done to the earliest posts. Now back to the chronological sequence ...

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The End of Spring, IC2403

7. Mangled Facts


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“They didn’t slurp it all then?” said Frokkit, peering into the topless barrel whilst clutching his vicious billhook as a support. His spiked helmet threatened to topple in, but he lifted his head back up just before it did.

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“No, they didn’t,” said Pooshin. “Didn’t even touch these.” He nodded towards the two on the ground and the one still on the wagon. “Too busy draining them big ‘uns we got from the last place. But they’ll get around to these soon enough, so best not get any ideas.”

Whichever ogre had drunk from the open barrel the previous night hadn’t troubled himself to broach it in the normal manner, instead smashing the head in to leave wooden splinters floating on the unfinished ale inside. Frokkit dipped a finger in, then sucked the sticky beer off, making that particular digit fractionally less grimy than the rest.

“Tasty,” he announced. “You know, I reckon they won’t want this one, not now it’s already opened. An’ if we put it on the cart it’ll just slosh and spill all o’er the place.”

Cornyclipper nodded, an action made all the more noticeable by his heavy nose, and flapping ears.

“You gotta point there, Frokkit. Better to drink it up ourselves than let it go to waste.”

“Puddles in our bellies instead o’ puddles on the road,” said his friend Furnip from beneath the huge ogre’s club he carried upon his bent back.

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Silence descended as they all pondered the proposition. They knew not to rush into any act of thievery without proper consideration. Carelessly light-fingered gnoblars did not tend to last long in the company of ogres. It was Frokit who eventually broke the silence.

“No-one’s lookin’,” he said. “They’re already on the move, leaving us gnobs to catch up as best we can. They’ve taken the big barrels. These little ‘uns are nought but tipply sips to them.”

“Aye,” said Furnip. “Nipper’s tipples.”

“We deserves our share,” said Cornyclipper. “We done Mangler good service, an’ Razger good service an’ all. The bosses had a right feasty reward last night, ’s only fair we have a drop or two too.”

“Aye,” said Furnip, his red eyes fixed in their peculiarly staring manner, but his voice getting louder. “A drop o’ tootoo.”

“I wish they hadn’t gobbled up the oxen, though,” said Cornyclipper. “Luggin this lump of a wagon ain’t gonna be easy.”

“Ah, won’t be as bad if we’ve a little ale inside us,” said Frokkit.

“Reckon so,” agreed Pooshin. “But we’ll drink after we’ve loaded the rest. That way the bosses’ll be even further ahead an’ a lot less likely to ogle us at it. Let’s not rush to load up neither. Best wait a while, just to be extra sure.”

As well as his memorably bulbous chin (which has been punched so often, whether deliberately or not, that he had long since lost all his front teeth) Pooshin had always been known for his cunning. All those present were happy to take his advice, so they all fell silent and stared at the barrel.

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Some of them had belonged to Mangler’s band, some to Razger’s army, but now Razger ruled everyone, and although the ogres still marched in their old companies under their old banners, despite the change at the top, the gnoblars had become all mixed up together. The ogres could not care less whether their goblinoid servants formed companies, or even if they took part in the battles. The gnoblars, however, knew they needed strength in numbers if they were going to avoid their masters’ full cruelties. Not that they ever put up any sort of argument or fighting resistance, rather that they could lose themselves in the crowd making it impossible for the ogres to work out which of them was to blame for what. And in crowds they could usually rely on some other gnoblar to distract an angry ogre whenever they did became the focus of attention, hoping their masters’ attention would wane and they would go off to do something else. It usually did.

Frokkit, in an attempt to make the waiting a little more bearable, broke the silence.

“D’you see butcher Slabdul lording it up last night?” he said. “You’d think it was him who beat Krav in the duel, not Razger.”

“Maybe he did?” said Pooshin.

“Whatya mean?” scoffed Cornyclipper. “Razger almost cleaved Krav’s head clean off his shoulders, just a flappy bit of flesh left between. I was right up at the front, an’ I saw it plain as pain. Slabdul just stood and watched like me and the rest.”

“Maybe Slabdul put a curse on Krav?” suggested Pooshin.

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“Nah!” said Cornyclipper. “I’ve seen him conjurating, an’ it’s a right old song and dance I tell ya, cutting up his own flesh an’ all. There was none of that last night. He just watched with a big grin on his face.”

“Puh!” snorted Pooshin. “O‘course he was grinning. He wanted Razger to win, an’ he knew that’s exactly what Razger was gonna do.”

Frokkit shook his head. “Not so sure about that. Krav had a chance. A good half of Mangler’s boys thought he could do it.”

“But did he ‘ave a chance, eh? Did he really?” asked Pooshin. “Maybe Slabdul put a curse on him before the fight? Maybe he slipped some foul nastiness into his meat or drink?”

“Magic grediants and wicked wot nots,” suggested Furnip, looking even more wild eyed than usual.

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“You reckon?” said Cornyclipper, his brow furrowed.

“Think about it,” demanded Pooshin. “He got given a big chunky share of the army’s loot after the duel. What was that for?”

“To stop him complaining like Krav did?” said Frokkit.

“No, it was a reward.”

“It was a reward,” said Murdle, who had until now held his tongue. “But not for cursing Krav. And not for poisonin’ him neither.”

“What for then?” Pooshin inquired. He knew Murdle of old, and had long since realised that Murdle had a grip on the ways of their masters that most gnoblars failed - often fatally - to attain.

“Think about it,” Murdle explained. “Krav was angry ‘cos when Mangler died Razger made Slabdul his second, not him.”

“Was a bit funny that,” agreed Pooshin.

“Not funny to Krav. He was next in line to Mangler. He should have become second when Mangler died.”

“We know,” said Frokkit in exasperation. “That’s what the fight was about.”

“Aye, the fight,” said Murdle. “But you’ve got things back to front in yer addled ‘ed. The fight was about butcher Slabdul being given command instead of Krav. The reward was already given.”

“No it wasn’t,” argued Pooshin. “Butcher Slabdul got his loot after Krav died.”

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“The loot, aye, but he got the command before the fight. That was the reward. The loot was just some crackling fat to make the reward tastier.”

“You’re sayin’ Slabdul was rewarded for summat else?”

“I am saying that, ‘cos I knows it’s true. After the battle on the road, Mangler was mangled bad and badder, but I’ve seen ogres live through a lot worse ‘n that. I’ve seen gnobs get better from worse.”

“So?”

“It was Butcher Slabdul tended his wounds, see?”

Pooshin scratched at his chin. “He wouldn’t get a reward for being bad at healing. Makes no sense.”

Murdle simply looked at him and waited.

“Hang on …” said Pooshin as an idea squeeze its way into his thoughts. “You’re sayin’ he got a reward for making sure Mangler died.”

Murdle grinned, revealing his two longest teeth – both on the left . “Snitch here saw what happened,” he said as he turned to look at the smallest gnoblar present. “Didn’t ya Snitch? No ogres spot you Snitch, do they? Ye’r too small ain’t ya. But there’s eyes in that little head of yours. Tell ‘em, Snitch. Tell ‘em what you told me.”

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Everyone looked at Snitch. Some were surprised to see him, having altogether failed to notice him until that moment.

“Old Mangler lay there sick and sore, big black bruises, skin all tore. But the butcher’s needle was a knife, an’ he stuck it in to end a life.” He had always had a sing-song way of talking.

“Sick, sore, skin all tore,” began Furnip. “Needly knifey …”

“Stop yer gabblin’, Furnip!” ordered Pooshin, then fixed his eyes on Murdle. “You’re saying Slabdul killed Mangler?”

“If Mangler had a hundred cuts after the battle,” pronounced Murdle most sombrely, “he had a hundred and one after Slabdul’s attentions.”

Silence fell as they all thought about what they had learned. Until Pooshin piped up, that is.

“Makes no difference to us though, does it?” he said. “Don’t matter who’s boss, we still has to do what we’re told, and be snikkety quick about it.”

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“You’re not wrong. Best drink up then and get a move on loadin’ the rest” said Frokkit.

He swung his billhook over to stick the steel head into the ground, then thrust both hands into the ale to lift out a big, dribbly scoop.
 
Joined
Nov 10, 2007
Messages
231
#90
The End of Spring, IC2403

8. Glammerscale and the Brabanzon


The wizard-dwarf Glammerscale had found his time in Karak Borgo irksome. Rather than complain, however, he had taken to announcing, in as breezy a tone as he could muster: “A change is as good as a break”. Eventually, one of the mountain realm’s denizens summoned enough momentary curiosity to ask what he meant by this, to which he replied, “The difficulties here are, at least, different from those I had grown accustomed to.”

His questioner’s interest was, however, as fleeting as it was reluctant, and no further enquiry was forthcoming. Glammerscale allowed himself to enjoy the irony, for exactly such unfriendliness was part and parcel of the difficulties he alluded to.

As a dwarf living amongst the men of Tilea, he had faced suspicion and awkwardness on a daily basis. Indeed, as an inhabitant of Pavona, such attitudes had escalated into hatred, then outright hostility, until he and all the dwarfs dwelling there had been forced into exile. After that time, he had moved hither and thither across the peninsula, visiting several dwarfs he believed might help, first to Ridraffa, then to Remas, then to Urbimo. In every place there had been the same old, underlying wariness whenever a man encounters a dwarf. And then here, after the long and hazardous journey to the dwarfen realm of Karak Borgo, he found a new suspicion, no less strong.

As men were untrusting of dwarfs, dwarfs were untrusting of wizards. He had always known this, but on arrival in Karak Borgo he had learned just how deep such feelings could run, especially when the wizard in question was also a dwarf! He had believed his chosen profession a rarity amongst his kind, but it turned out to be entirely unknown. Upon declaring his occupation, he had been met with either with raucous laughter or visible disgust – at least until word got around. After that, few agreed to meet him at all!

Luckily, he had not travelled alone, but was accompanied by several other Pavonan exiles, including Gallibrag Honourbeard and his servant Norgrug. They, at least, knew him from old, were accustomed to his company and even counted him as a friend. His cousin Goldshin - a Tilean dwarf with whom the mountain dwellers had done very profitable business - had remained in Ridraffa, yet had sufficient repute in Karak Borgo to ensure Glammerscale had not been sent away. That repute, plus the presence of the wealthier exiles like Honourbeard, had gained the exiles an audience with the king and even an invitation to stay. Since then, the exiles had become willingly embroiled in King Jaldeog’s plans to re-open his trade routes into Tilea by defeating the brute army of Campogrotta. Having lived among men, their experience was recognised, their counsels heeded, their presence more obviously welcome. They themselves were playing a long game (something dwarfs have time to do) for once they had contributed in the restoration of Karak Borgo’s fortunes, they hoped for reciprocal assistance in restoring their own.

They had gone further than simply offering knowledgeable advice, for it was through them and their connections that the Estalian contingent of the Compagnia del Sole had been successively (and speedily) hired. Furthermore, it was their own monies that had been used to pay the advance payment to hire the Brabanzon mercenaries accompanying Baron Garoy into Tilea. Which was why Glammerscale, Honourbeard and Norgrug, along with several other exiles, now found themselves discussing contractual details with the northerner mercenaries upon the track that ran along the western slopes of the Vaults to join Karak Borgo’s Iron Road.

Glammerscale wore his green hat, leather travelling coat and peculiar red-tinged eye-glasses, and clutched his slightly crooked staff. Standing beside him was Gallibrag Honourbeard, having transformed from his former, urbane self into the very image of a wilderness ranger, with red, hooded cloak, heavy boots and a blue coat belted upon the outside. He leaned on an axe as tall as himself.

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Honourbeard’s servant, Norbrug, had also adopted a novel fashion since his days as a clerk in Pavona. Now he considered himself first and foremost his master’s guard, and thus attired himself in chainmail and a helm. His axe was shorter than his master’s, exactly proportionate to their respective heights. Glammerscale, although intrigued to know if his two companions had themselves noticed this fact, had successfully stopped himself pointing it out on several occasions.

The meeting took place at an abandoned mine-shaft – one of the many, diminutive, exploratory kind found throughout these hills, left to crumble if nothing of worth was discovered. The Brabanzon leader, Lodar ‘the Wolf’ de Sevole, had his lieutenants with him, whilst behind them a column of the company’s spearmen filed past at a jog. Lodar’s chancellor, who originally arranged the contract with the dwarfs, had called the band ‘Tard Venus’, which apparently meant they were considered brigands now that some war or other in the north had ended. He claimed they would be overjoyed to become soldiers (‘valets’ was the word he used) again, but one look told Glammerscale they were presently unhappy, which he now realised was most likely why they had called for this little rendezvous.

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The mercenaries were liveried in dark green and a muted yellow, wearing layers of armour a considered a little archaic by the men of Tilea. To dwarfs, who often wore armour of styles unchanged over centuries, it simply looked human. In truth, what with their faces almost hidden by their coifs, Glammerscale could barely tell the mercenaries apart. After brief introductions, the first to speak was Lodar, and he went straight to the point.

“We have heard you have employed other mercenaries for this venture. This was not made known when our contract was agreed, despite my chancellor’s questions regarding such matters. Who are these others? Under what terms to they serve?”

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“Captain Lodar, I fail to see why this could be of any concern to you,” said Glammerscale. “Do you not want to be part of an army that will be victorious in battle? Such an outcome is much more likely if our strength is equal to the task.””

“Ha,” scoffed Lodar. “Victory is good. Spoils are better. We were promised the plunder of Campogrotta.”

“You were promised your fair share of the plunder,” said Glammerscale.

“Which we were led to believe meant sharing with the dwarfen army of Karak Borgo and the baron, not with however many other mercenaries you have also taken into your service.”

Another Brabanzon, clutching a large leather jack from which he had just taken a very hearty swig, interjected,

“Do you take us for fools? Do you think we Brabanzon will allow anyone to treat us with disrespect? To break promises made to us?”

There followed a moment of silence, which Glammerscale deliberately allowed so as not to appear in any way concerned with the mercenaries’ implied threat. The Brabanzon simply watched, neither speaking further nor moving.

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Eventually, Glammerscale gestured to Gallibrag’s servant.

“I think perhaps you are under a misapprehension. Master Norgrug here will explain the particulars, that you might better comprehend the due fairness of our transaction.”

“You will have exactly what was agreed, to the letter,” said Norgrug. After decades as a clerk he had studied the contract closely and understood all the details. “You knew full well there were other forces involved in this war, not merely our dwarven warriors and Baron Garoy’s men-at-arms, and you were promised one third of the plunder. Which is what you will receive.”

“How so?” demanded Lodar. “For even if it is only one other mercenary company that makes four parties to the agreement!”

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“You are correct,” said Norgrug.

“Three does not go into four!” said Lodar.

“Aah,” said Glammerscale, as if he had just had an insight. “Are you perhaps presuming each party has been contracted under the same terms?”

The cart had now trundled past, its draught horse, a rugged and stout pony, making good speed – enough to keep pace with the jogging spearmen.

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Lodar looked askance at the dwarfs, his brow furrowed, then asked,

“Which party has been deprived of its share?”

Glammerscale smiled and looked over the top of his eyeglasses at the Brabanzon leader.

“Consider the parties involved, Captain” he suggested. “I believe that with a further moment’s thought you will deduce which it must be.”

It was the Brabanzon with the leather jack who answered, apparently speaking his thoughts as he put them together.

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“The mercenaries, whoever they are, will want their pay and a share of the prize, this goes without saying. You dwarfs love your gold so much that you would never yield an opportunity to amass more of it, especially when you want to recover your already considerable outlay. So … it must be the baron. Yes?”

“You have it!” declared Glammerscale. “I see the ale has not deprived you of one jot of your wits.”

The comment seemed lost on the Brabanzon, but such a stumble in the conversation could not stop Glammerscale in his tracks.

“The Baron Garoy,” the wizard explained, “being of such noble blood, deemed it would disparage the stock from which he came to contract for a portion of plunder. He would never stoop so low. He has come to Tilea upon a chivalrous quest, to liberate the realm of Ravola. A hero such as he cares nothing for what happens to the wealth of Campogrotta.”

“Ha,” laughed Lodar. “The baron might proclaim such a thing, but how will he repair Ravola without the gold to pay for it?”

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“How indeed?” agreed Glammerscale. “Still, provided he possesses some proficiency in war, then he should serve our purposes perfectly. Whether or not he struggles during the subsequent peace is of little present concern.”

“Puh!” mocked the Brabanzon with the jack. “He rides like a boy at his first joust, and his battle experience comes from playing merelles.”

“Surely you exaggerate, sir, for comic effect” said Glammerscale. “Yet if true, then hopefully his keenness and the men who ride with him will make up for any inexperience.”

Lodar laughed. “Let the baron and his petite noblesse canter where they like when we lay siege to the city. It is we foot-soldiers who will have to dig the works and mount the guard. It is our arrows that will reach the monstrous foe in the towers, and our engines that will topple the parapets. And when the time is ripe, it is we who will climb the ladders and storm the gates. If Garoy joins us then he will be simply one among the many, and worth half of anyone of the rest. I know not whether these other mercenaries you have hired are capable of such things, but I know we are. We expect to be appropriately rewarded afterwards, as you promised.”

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“Have no fear regarding that concern,” promised Norgrug. “I myself will ensure your accounts are settled exactly as agreed, and all will be done openly and fairly.”

“I would have it no other way,” added Glammerscale. “For such transparency will ensure no bitterness, no contention amongst those who have fought so bravely. The fighting will be done with, and all will be peace and prosperity, aye?”
 
Joined
Nov 10, 2007
Messages
231
#91
A Letter from Antonio Mugello to my most noble Lord Lucca Vescucci of Verezzo

I pray to all the gods that you, my lord, are well and that the realm of Verezzo remains untouched by the brute hands that have so ravaged the city states to the north and north-east.

As I promised in my previous missive, I remained for a while in the proximity of Ridraffa in order to confirm the ogres had indeed crossed the River Riatti and marched northwards. Baring the unlikely decision to retrace their steps, it seemed to me that they were now homeward bound, and indeed that which I have learned since confirms this belief. If my estimation and understanding concerning this prove wrong, I beg that you forgive me. Rather than bide my time unnecessarily in such quiet ruins, I honestly believed that I would serve you better by learning what I could of the disturbances in Remas and the situation to the north.

Upon arrival in Remas I found all in turmoil, the realm having become divided. The Reman army was encamped at Frascoti, under the command of the arch-lector Bernado Ugolini, while the city itself remained in the hands of Father Carradalio’s fanatical Disciplinati di Morr. The Pavonan army sat between the two, as Duke Guidobaldo apparently busied himself with attempting to promote peace between the antagonistic factions. Yet neither the high church nor the low, if I might describe them thus, showed any sign of yielding, which sowed great fear amongst the Reman people, and many talked of civil war as if it were not only inevitable but had already begun. If indeed the Reman army does besiege the city (Remans within and Remans without), then it would likely be a long, drawn out business. On the one hand, the city walls are strong and the army weakened by its long fight against the undead and the ogres, while on the other hand the defenders are religious fanatics, not soldiers, and the army might be well supplied by Frascoti to the south.

Such is the madness of Remas, embroiled in a misery entirely of its own making as all the while its enemies grow stronger. The ogres may well have begun their homeward journey, battered and bruised by umpteen battles, but they are laden with plunder, grown fat from feeding upon man-flesh, and have left all behind them in ruin. I fear that now the vampires will follow in the Razger’s wake, eyeing such devastated places with their own intent, for what to us appears barren and burned, is as a feast laid out for them. We see only a wasted land, but they see rich pickings. They need no crops nor cattle, no water nor wine - they feed instead upon rotten remains, turning the very corpses into warriors for their armies. Who will prevent them from summoning legions from the graveyards and necropolises?

I chose not to linger in the daily-changing chaos and instead to travel further to the small city of Urbimo, the most northern bastion of the living along the western coast. Remas’ troubles are sad, and I prayed hard for the holy city’s redemption, but it is not Remas that threatens Verezzo, rather it is the enemy that has fuelled their madness - an enemy made more dangerous by the Remans’ spiralling weakness. The Morrite church is as divided as Remas, indeed it is the very cause of the citizens’ division. Morr's priests, the best placed to defend Tilea against the vampires, have by their own failings become worse than useless, squabbling murderously among themselves instead of preparing for the oncoming onslaught. How many will survive to stand against the undead?

I wished to learn what I could of the threat of the vampires, and where better than a place so close to their hellish domain? There I discovered the desperate depths to which men can sink when terrified, for the madness that grips Remas has also tainted this neighbouring realms. I had thought the recent bloody coup in Remas, when the Disciplinati seized the city from within, was bad, but the Urbimans have been driven to take even more terrible measures in pursuit of Morr’s holy protection. For years they had petitioned and begged Remas for military aid, yet none was forthcoming. They felt safe only for the few weeks when the Compagnia del Sole were lodged in their city. Once all the mercenaries had finally made the crossing from Estalia, however, they left to fulfil their contract for the dwarfs of Karak Borgo (being to assist in the war against the wizard-lord Nicolo of Campogrotta and his brutes – which may well be why Razger finally turned back). Since then, the Urbimans’ fear has swelled beyond sanity, for they know that the undead could come upon any night. And in that one night all will surely die, after which an even more terrible nightmare will unfold as they themselves become the vampires’ rotting, puppet-slaves.

Consequently, they too have cultivated a new religious fervour, beyond even the flagellating extremes of the Reman Disciplinati. They have dedicated themselves body and soul to Morr’s service and begun cleansing Urbimo of all they consider corrupted, and even some they believe are merely corruptible. They have turned against every practitioner of the magical arts, including the pettiest of conjurers - hedge wizards, alchemists, wise women, even tumblers and masters of legerdemain. All such who failed to flee have been put to death. The very day I arrived I witnessed the burning of a maid accused of nothing more than casting a cantrip meant to soothe a poorly child in her care, a deed twisted by the people’s fears into a wicked curse.

Thus it was I found myself amongst the gathered crowd, upon what would otherwise have been called a pleasant summer’s day, by an apple orchard in an othertime’s peaceful place, watching with horror as the deed was done.

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Morrite priests officiated, turning suspicions and accusations into conviction and sentence, while cultists chanted their pain-prayers and jangled their chains. Although neither judge nor jury were present, the Barone Pietro Cybo attended with a handful of retainers, and along with his executioner lent a degree of lawful authority to the proceedings. He was somewhat transformed from the man I had met upon several occasions previously, clad in armour atop his horse, his expression stern as he waved aloft a Morrite catechism. Beside him his brother Carlo and several gentlemen looked on inscrutably, having perhaps grown accustomed to such horrors?

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On all the other occasions I have met with him, twice in Remas and twice before here, the Barone has been a man of scholarly patience and shrewd wit. I know, my lord, that you and he have corresponded concerning matters political and philosophical, for he himself told me so, with evident satisfaction. And yet this time he seemed not even to see me, despite looking directly at me several times. As you ordered me always to write honestly concerning what I witnessed, then I will say that despite his past friendship with you, in truth he seemed no less gripped by frenzy than the wildest of the populace, and although he did not go so far as to lash his own flesh as the dedicants do, his wide-eyes and fixed expression belied a state of mind no less frantic with fear and hate.

The charge was read by a confessor, imbued with such disgust as to make the wench’s action sound like infanticide, or worse, like she had been party to necromantic machinations intended to transform the child into a very devil.

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Beside the priest, and throughout his cruel speech, a hooded acolyte pointed at the poor wench, as if to drill the accusations deep into her soul. In Urbimo, any and all magic, any prayer, either thought or spoken (unless to Morr Supreme) has become an abhorrence. Every such deed is supposed to be the first step on the slippy slope to damnation, cutting a chink into the bulwark of Morr’s most holy blessing, exposing our mortal souls to the first caress of the vampires.

As the crime was detailed, exhaustively, a Morrite monk interjected with encouragements and lessons for the crowd, raising his hands now and then to call on Morr’s blessing and protection. His words, even his merest glance, elicited a flurry of Morrite gestures from those gathered.

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And none amongst the watchers spoke, neither to cry out shame on her or shame on those accusing her. There were no jeers nor any tears. Never before have I seen a crowd behave in such a way at a public execution.

All the while, in between her sobs, the poor wench tied to the post prayed aloud as best she could to Morr, begging his forgiveness and pleading that Urbimo would not suffer because of her error. So great a fear grips this realm that she did not seek forgiveness for herself, nor plead to be admitted to his garden despite her crime, but instead she prayed for Urbimo. The executioner, a giant of a man bearing an axe the like of which I have only before seen carried by ogres, watched her intently, his bearded face twisted into a monstrous grimace, though whether this was because he considered her the most despicable of creatures, or whether he recognised the true horror of her situation, I know not.

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Behind her stood two more prisoners, due to receive the attentions of the executioner’s axe after they had witnessed the maid’s horrible death. I learned later that they had thrice arrived late to work upon the city’s defences, a crime transformed by the people’s heightened fears from mere misdemeanour to detestable felony. They were guarded by a soldier, who alone in the crowd seemed unable to look upon the spectacle. Instead he hung his head to stare at the ground before him, clutching his helm by his side.

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The soldier was liveried in the colours of the Compagnia del Sole, and I have seen more of the same in Urbimo. Not all the Compagnia del Sole went east – perhaps a kindness on the part of their commander so that the city would not be left entirely unprotected?

I write all this, my noble lord, that you may know the truth concerning these realms. It seems to me that Remas cannot be expected to defeat the vampires. The Remans tried once already, to great loss, and their city is now locked in suicidal civil war. Now the same self-destruction, the same self-loathing, that wracks Remas has spread to Urbimo.

I have heard that armies are gathering in the south to face Razger’s brutes, yet it seems likely he has turned away. Will those same armies be prepared instead to face the vampires now that Remas is proved wanting? Is there an alliance between the vampires and brutes? Where will the unliving Duchess Maria strike? Is the Compagnia del Sole, having so unexpectedly marched east, part of some grand plan? I cannot know these things, nor would my guesses be of much value.

I end by asking, most noble lord, that you send instructions concerning what you would have me do, and whither you would send me.

Your loyal and humble servant, Antonio Mugello.
 
Joined
Nov 10, 2007
Messages
231
#92
Prequel to the Second Assault Upon Viadaza

Excerpt from: “The Holiest of Armies, A History of the Disciplinati di Morr”


As spring came to a close in the year 2403 it seemed inevitable that bloody, civil war would engulf the state of Remas, despite the threats presented by both Razger’s brutes and the foul armies of the vampire duchess. Two factions, very different in nature, vied to wrest complete control of the realm from each other. Father Carradalio now ruled the city and eastern district of Palomtrina with an iron rod. The noble houses were powerless, the overlord held hostage, the streets, and indeed the very houses, patrolled and policed by his fanatical dedicants. But he did not rule the entire realm, for the Arch-Lector Bernado and the veteran army of Remas held the south-western district of Frascoti. Duke Guidobaldi of Pavona, his own realm brutally ravaged by the double army of ogres that had so recently threatened Remas, busied himself with brokering a peace between the Reman factions, while his son’s grievous wounds were tended by the city’s finest (surviving) doctors. His efforts seemed to be of no avail, however, for eventually the Reman army left its fortified camp and marched aggressively upon the city, intending that their erstwhile allies the Pavonans would join them in their enterprise.

Rumours were rife. Were one to give equal countenance to all that was said, it seemed each and every party intended to harm each and every other, and that not one, single honest agreement had been made. Every lord and priest plotted assassinations and treachery, so that each in return was the target of the same, and that the factions were divided even within themselves – what with Reman soldiers being secret Morrite dedicants and some of the Disciplinati inwardly yearning for the return of the church-proper and secular authority. Although the Reman army now advanced against the city, its walls manned by Disciplinati defenders, some said both sides had secretly agreed to turn upon the Pavonans, while others claimed the Pavonans had sided with both factions, leaving their true intentions a mystery but treacherous either way. The truth will never be known, for even those who plotted could not be certain of others’ minds, and perhaps had not even decided what they themselves would really do when push came to the shove. The outcome balanced upon a knife's edge, and everyone had a well-honed knife to hand.

Yet out of all this suspicion and turmoil, just as everything seemed to come to a head, an agreement was reached, as unexpected as it was sudden. The Praepositus Generalis of the Disciplinati di Morr, Father Carradalio, accepted the terms offered by the Arch-Lector Bernado, and both sides despite suspicions and distrust, remained true to their promises. War was averted. While Duke Guidobaldo and his ragged army of Pavonans slinked away, perhaps simply to remove themselves from any repercussions arising from the exposure of their duplicity, the two ‘most holy’ Morrite clergy in Tilea - one the radical, fanatical leader of the low church, the other the official, noble ruler of the high church – embraced each other.

Father Carradalio knelt before the holy pontiff, humbly confessed his sins and professed obedience to the Church of Morr. In return he was not only granted forgiveness but praised for his steadfast obedience to Morr’s revealed will and given command of the now officially recognised Disciplinati di Morr brotherhood. The arch-lector had personally witnessed what such dedicants were capable of in battle - how they alone could be relied upon to stand and fight to a man even in the face of all the terrors the vampires’ armies possessed - so he now commanded them to march forthwith from the city to seek battle with the foe.

Perhaps Father Carradalio knew full well that to attempt to hold the city against the Reman army, the anointed father of the church and the will of the majority of citizens, would prove disastrous? Why would he allow such turmoil to distract him when all he ever wanted was to serve the great god Morr in the war against the undead, and all he had ever done was in pursuit of that goal? (This included the cruelties a truly hard-heart required.) As for the arch-lector, a man experienced in politics, who had himself faced the undead in battle, perhaps he too saw the folly of engaging in a war that would weaken both the army under his command and the very fanatics best suited to fight against the true and terrible enemy? They both knew this was a time for war, but not civil war. Their common enemy threatened a fate much worse than that they presented to each other, a threat so great it made any disagreements between them seem trivial, despite having caused such turmoil and suffering.

No time was wasted, the Disciplinati di Morr being ever ready for any action or order, driven by their fanatical desire to prove themselves (with every thought and action) the perfect servants of Morr, the agents of his righteous vengeance and anger, his very weapons. Of course, the arch-lector and the citizens were keen to see them go, for no city could endure their fervent scrutiny for long, nor could it thrive whilst subject to their attentions. Within half a week the ‘Holiest of Armies’ departed and began its march to Urbimo. There they met with an order of Morrite dedicants of almost exactly like minds, who they happily incorporated into the army, thus swelling to an even greater strength. They parted Urbimo only two days later, such was their keenness to face the foe. Besides, Father Carradalio knew full well that to tarry even a little while could bring disaster to such an army, its warriors filled to the brim with a lust for battle, barely able to contain a frenzied fury which made them wont to scourge their own flesh to the very bone.

They aimed to cross the River Trantino to the south of Viadaza, for they had not the patience to go by way of the bridge at Scorcio. Father Carradalio led the army, his admonitor Brother Vincenzo by his side. He refused any mount or carriage, and would have only the scouts ahead of him, being too fearless to demand his bodyguard stay ever-close, but too wise to forego the necessity of scouts to a marching army. Besides, the army itself was his bodyguard. Should any enemy have approached they would have found themselves overwhelmed by a great swarm of dedicants ecstatically happy to martyr themselves in the defence of such an instrument of Holy Morr as he.

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Morr himself visited Carradalio’s dreams to reveal the enemy’s whereabouts. Carradalio thus announced to his lieutenants that two cities now contained the enemy’s armies, and that they would take Viadaza first for it had so long threatened Urbimo and was port through which the vampires could channel reinforcements elsewhere. Besides, he declared, the men to the south should and could face the other army, while he and the Disciplinati would strike at the vampires’ very hearts: Adolfo’s city of Viadaza, Maria’s city of Ebino and the foul origin of their current corruption, Miragliano.

Carradalio marched with sword drawn, not just leading the column, but also the prayers they chanted and the hymns they sang.

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The prayers maintained the army’s fervour, lending them a strength which belied the meagre rations of the past days and weeks, for the words had sufficient power in them to stir the winds of magic. The hymns lifted the dedicants’ spirits too, just as any marching song might do in any army. These encouragements were bolstered further by the prayers being offered by the many priests and monks accompanying the army. Each body of dedicants had spiritual guides, either rectors assigned to them by Father Carradalio, or the shepherd’s marshals who had first guided them in their dedication to Morr, or both.

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Furthermore, there was barely a hill of significance they passed that did not have a knot of priests upon it, channelling the encouraging will of Morr to wash down upon his warriors.

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Marching immediately behind the Praepositus Generalis were a company of Reman citizen-dedicants. These were the men who had seized the city upon Father Carradalio’s command, tearing through the streets to slay any hired bravi or nobleman’s servant who stood in their way. Wholly obedient, they questioned no order, not even in their own hearts or minds, for they believed that their god spoke through Carradalio, that his words were divine in origin. Their robes still carried the blood stains from that struggle, as well as that of their own blood, born of the scars of their flagellations.

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Behind them marched the dedicants of Pontremola, who had been even more brutal than their Reman counterparts in purging their own villages. Indeed, they had gone too far, for in their fury many innocents had died, and so their self-proclaimed prophet had been executed and they had been admonished. Yet these events had served to strengthened their resolve to serve Morr in body and soul, and they were imbued with not one iota’s less fervour than the rest of the army.

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Next came Carradalio’s torch-bearing bodyguard, always ensuring that half their number carried flames, that they might be ready in but a moment to light the other torches. There was magic woven into the flames, so that they shone with a light both natural and other-worldly, capable of burning even creatures of the ether.

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Then came the tolling bell upon its carriage. This was brother to that which had been lost on the field at Ebino, and it sang with almost exactly the same sombre tone. Sacred texts adorned its mount, bearing the words that its accompanying guards quietly chanted over and over.

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Behind the bell marched more Reman dedicants, made up of those foreigners who had travelled from all over the Old World to live in the holy city. They carried enormous, heavy, and viciously barbed flails of iron, capable of killing a man merely by falling upon him, which they swung in hard-learned and painfully practiced motions. A much greater number had left Remas, and still more fell daily as a consequence of the slightest miss-step or a moment’s bad timing, yet still they continued for such was their dedication to martyrdom that they no longer cared for anything but their holy, wild and deadly cavortings. It was such as these who convinced Carradalio of the need to reach the foe as quickly as possible. To linger even a day too long could critically sap his army’s strength. As he famously said to the arch-lector during his public profession of his sins, in explanation of the Disciplinati’s hasty and violent seizure of the city: “The fuse has been lit, and we needs must place the charge before it bursts.” To which the arch-lector had graciously agreed it would be a terrible waste to be hoist by one’s own petard.

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Next in the column trundled maestro Angelo da Leoni’s engine of war, his ‘Cannone Luminoso’ with its impressive array of giant lenses. By now it had become common knowledge in the city that this machine had been abandoned by the maestro when he instead had chosen to work on his steam engine for the Arch-Lector Calictus II, yet it was also known that the lenses had since been proven effective enough to melt several men, and that da Leoni had declared with confidence that the piercing light it emitted would burn the undead even more readily than the living. Father Carradalio hoped it would wash its rays against Vaidaza’s parapets, scorching the foul flesh of whatever stood there, but although he had prayed for guidance upon how best to employ such an engine, Morr ignored his requests.

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Then came the most recent recruits to the holy army – the dedicants of Urbimo. They, like the Pontremolans, had gone to great and terrible lengths to cleanse their settlement of sin. In fact, they had gone much further, for they had not just run violently through the streets in a riot of religiously inspired hatred, fighting any opposition, but had calmly gathered up all those they considered guilty of even the most minor of crimes, including those merely suspected of such (even on the flimsiest of evidence), and put them to death. This they did to be certain of an effective purging, even if it was at the cost of the death of many innocents, even members of their own family. They had executed them publicly, one after the other, and in the grisliest of ways, by burnings and quarterings, or combinations thereof. They believed the suffering not only cleansed the guilty victims’ souls but ensured Morr would pour his righteous blessing upon the whole of Urbimo, especially the dedicants who proved themselves so thoroughly committed that they could punish even their own neighbours and family. Amongst their number were grey-robed monks from the Morrite monastery Sacra di San Antamo on the rocky promontory to the north-west of Urbimo. The rest, being the bulk of their number, were still garbed in their peasant clothes, albeit favouring the Morrite hues of grey and red.

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Marching behind the Urbiman dedicants was a substantial number of soldiers. Barone Pietro of Urbimo had brought his household guard of light horsemen with him, as well as the single small company of Compagnia del Sole crossbowmen left behind as a token act of mercy when the all the rest of the mercenaries marched away leaving the Urbimans unprotected in this time of need. Some of his horsemen rode with the barone, but most were acting as outriders and scouts, with the aforementioned blessing of Father Carradalio. Of course, many more of the barone’s subjects were part of the holy army, but he recognised that as Morrite dedicants any authority he had over them was little more than nominal. They had been willingly absorbed into the Disciplinati di Morr and were now Carradalios to command. Not that the barone cared over much, for he too shared enough fear to make him almost as much a Morrite cultist as them.

And there was the standing guard of the city of Remas, known as the Palace Guard, consisting almost entirely of mercenaries from the northern Empire, commanded by Captain Vogel. Their presence was something of an act of penance, for Vogel had not only failed to lift a finger to halt the Disciplinati’s uprising and seizure of the city but was known to have secretly agreed with Carradalio not to interfere beyond ensuring the personal safety of the highest clergymen. In return he had been promised the reward of becoming commander of the city’s entire regular forces, and a doubling in the size of his company, along with a proportionate increase in his pay. The arch-lector had decided he could hardly forgive Father Carradalio his sins and not Captain Vogel, nor did he want to dismiss and disperse a body of soldiers such as the guard in a time of war. So they too were forgiven and ordered to accompany the holy army upon the march to face the Vampire Duchess’s armies.

Their main company, men-at-arms carrying either halberds or great-swords, marched immediately behind the compagnia’s crossbowmen …

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… whilst at their rear came their own crossbow as well as the army’s artillery – Vogel’s brace of cannons. Captain Vogel had voiced his little confidence in the maestro’s war-machine, resurrected as it was from the scrap-heap, hoping instead his own pets, his ‘pocket pistols’ as he was wont to call them, would do what was required to punch a real hole in the enemy’s defences.

This was the army that marched to Viadaza to face the vampire duchess herself.
 
Joined
Jan 1, 2017
Messages
461
#93
Now that Photobucket has graciously resurrected my pictures (3000+ different images scattered all over the web), and in light of how much some folk were enjoying the thread previously, I have decided to fill in all the gaps, including even posts that do not feature the undead or mention of them, and get the campaign up to it's present moment. I am right now working on a big bat-rep featuring the vampire duchess and so you could consider all that follows as prequel to that battle.

The reason I hadn't been posting everything new here recently was basically the demoralisation I felt at the sudden death of all the earlier photobucket pictures. Now that they are back, and the thread is made 'whole' again (even though it starts deep into the campaign and misses a lot of earlier posts) I feel better about putting the recent posts here.

HORRAY!!!!

lot of material to dig through. I'm super excited! :happy:
 
Joined
Nov 10, 2007
Messages
231
#94
I hope you are enjoying the read Unas!

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The Assault on Viadaza
Summer IC2403


Part One: Deployment and Vanguard Moves

Once more Viadaza was to be the site of bloody conflict.

In Autumn 2401 the dead had risen to tear their way through the streets until there were none alive in the entire city (Oldhammer Forum • View topic - Tilea IC2401 (Campaign#8)). In Summer 2402 Arch-Lector Calictus II’s grand army had broken through the walls to retake the city from the living dead, forcing the vampire Lord Adolfo to flee (Oldhammer Forum • View topic - Tilea IC2401 (Campaign#8)) . In the Spring of 2403 the city yet again fell to the undead, this time almost without a fight, and although plenty of blood was shed, belonging to many of the foolish souls remaining in the city, this time a number were spared so that they might serve the cruel church of Nagash through their enforced, tormented prayers.

Now, in the summer of 2403, an army the like of which had never before been seen in Tilea approached to wrest Viadaza from the undead again. The ‘Holiest Army’ they called themselves, consisting almost entirely of religious fanatics, the flagellating dedicants of the Disciplinatic di Morr.

The city’s walls had been repaired since the Summer of 2402. Corpses were burned in huge heaps in the streets in an attempt to ensure they could never be resurrected to serve the vampires again, while the damage to the walls inflicted during the assault …

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… had been repaired, and the earthwork bastion, studded with stormpoles, which sat before the gate …

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… had, in a spirit of optimism, been cleared away to give easier access so that the city could recover and even thrive once more through trade. Thus it was that the Holiest Army of Morr faced an unbroken wall, studded with towers, with an expanse of open ground, bereft of trees, cottages or cover of any kind.

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Not that they needed to conceal themselves as they approached, for the enemy had no artillery to employ against them, nor handguns or even bows. The duchess’ second-in-command, the bestial vampire Lord Adolfo, his magically re-vivified blood tainted by an orcen tinge, watched the approaching army from the southern-most tower, his ghouls occupying the walls and towers around him. This was the same stretch of wall he had attempted to defend during the last assault. Perhaps he had chosen to put himself there deliberately, to test himself and prove he was capable of doing that which he failed to do previously?

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The other walls and towers were held by the vampire duchess’s graveguard, while a large horde of fly-ridden zombies staggered before the gate, and a regiment of skeletal warriors marched outside the northern wall. Inside the city were a body of black knights and a spirit host, both of which were capable of moving through the stone walls to attack the foe.

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(Note: See appendix below for a diagram of the wall sections and a brief discussion of the siege/assault rules.)

The Holiest Army had built a great wooden siege tower, in the old style, presuming the enemy was unlikely to have cannon or any kind of war engines to hurl missiles at it. A large body of cultists pushed this towards the tower upon which Lord Adolfo waited, while another regiment of cultists advanced upon the very left flank.

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Upon the other side of the tower, towards the centre of the Disciplinati’s line, marched a company of mercenaries with crossbows, then a large regiment of cultists containing both the Praepositus Generalis Father Carradalio and his admonitor, Brother Vincenzo. The soldiers of the Remas city guard occupied the right of the centre, consisting of crossbows, two cannons and a regiment of men-at-arms, the latter containing the disgraced condottieri Captain Vogel and the Urbiman priest of Morr. Beyond these, upon the right flank, was da Leoni’s ‘Cannone Luminoso’, then Carradalio’s bodyguard, then the horde of Urbiman cultists. Upon the extreme right was a company of cultist crossbowmen, behind which trotted Barone Pietro Cybo and his guard of light horsemen (at first unsure as to what their role could be in an assault such as this, but then nervously aware that they might well be fighting that day when they saw the enemy outside the walls).

Behind the army was the baggage train, with yet more lesser clergy and cultists to guard it. Carradalio was very keen to ensure this was kept safe, for if he was to lead his army deep into the enemy’s territory, to strike a blow into the very heart of their realm, then he would need his well-stocked baggage train intact.

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Of course, he knew that the casualties his fanatical followers would accrue would be significant, even in victory, and so each subsequent battle would be fought with rapidly decreasing numbers. But those soldiers he had would always need meat and drink. Indeed, the inevitable dwindling of his army’s strength would lend itself to the supplies in the baggage train proving sufficient for his campaign, bolstered (as with all armies) by whatever they could take along the way.

A stench wafted from the city, coming as no surprise to the attacking force, which was made all the more sickly by the still-rotting walking corpses posted directly in front of the gate.

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Father Carradalio’s plan was simple. He intended to utilise the fanaticism of his troops - their fearless determination to fight to the very last man - to obtain a foothold upon at least two points along the city’s stone circumvallation, from which to fan out along the parapets, subsequently fighting without the disadvantage of being upon ladders. On the right he intended the dedicants pushing the siege tower …

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… to assault the corner tower at the same moment the leftmost regiment …

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… climbed over the southern wall. That way the ghouls (and Lord Adolfo) would be attacked from two sides, and the casualties caused could be so swiftly delivered that necromantic magic would be unable to resurrect their losses sufficiently quickly.

Whilst that attack was delivered, the cannons …

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… would concentrate first upon the gate and then upon a wall, hopefully creating two access points which could be employed if the walls proved too difficult an obstacle, while the massed regiments of cultists …

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… and Reman guardsmen would seek to enter at whichever point seemed most amenable to a speedy attack (after dealing with the massed zombies between them and the wall). On the far right of the line, the Urbiman peasant cultists …

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… were ordered to attack the skeletons threatening the army’s flank and then support the other troops as best they could. The army’s significant number of crossbowmen were to concentrate their shooting at the defenders on the walls (able to aim over the heads of the massed troops advancing in front of them) in the hope that even if the casualties they caused were re-raised, the magic efforts required to do so would diminish the number of spells hurled from the walls at the advancing army. In support of the crossbowmen, the war engine was to target anything of significance its crew could spot upon the walls or aim to pierce the multiple ranks of either of the undead regiments outside the walls.

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The vampire duchess had plans of her own. Besides manning the walls (Note: see appendix for GM-ruled dispersal of defenders on the walls) she had boldly placed two regiments outside the walls - the skeletons and zombies - and to support them she had cunningly concealed two ethereal companies - her spirit hosts and black riders - behind the nearby walls so that they could sally out upon her command.

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Her own mount awaited her near the knights, held by a skeletal servant, in case she herself decided to sally out with them! To lend necromantic support to nearly all her troops, she had placed herself at the northern end of the walls, Lord Adolfo at the southern end, and her necromancer …

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… in a tower between the two of them.

For some time the attackers waited impatiently, as the tower was pushed steadily towards the walls (Note: As per 6th Ed WFB siege rules, a 2D6 ‘vanguard’ style move) ..

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… until suddenly there was a blare of horns and thunderous roll of drumming, and the army as a whole began to advance.

Battle to follow.



Appendix

A very brief summary of the assault battle rules:

I based the rules on the 6th ed WFB siege appendix, modified for 8th and with some of the 8th ed building assault rules added in to make the end result more compatible with 8th ed.

An assault game lasts 7 not 6 turns, and the aim is to control more wall or tower sections at the end of turn 7 than the opponent. There are lose, draw, minor victory and major victory results, themselves with campaign consequences, and themselves a modified version of our usual campaign rules regarding casualties etc.

I GM’d the sections to consist of the following…

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The defender is allowed to split large regiments (30+) into two equal halves, then each half regiment or entire small regiment can occupy up to two neighbouring sections, again splitting in half to do so. Thus 40 ghouls could split then split again to occupy four adjacent sections with 10 ghouls on each. This seems fair enough, even though a break from normal practice ‘in the field’ because at the end of the day the companies on the walls are simply ordered to stand there and fight whatever comes at them.

I never specified on the day, but if a player had raised the question I would have had to say, that little sub-companies of regiments divided this way cannot move away from their adjacent sub-companies, and so cannot start behaving as a truly independent company, unless a character was with them in which case I would have allowed it. The other companies, without characters, would have stayed on the wall they deployed on originally. Characters can move from section to adjacent section, thus moving from sub-company to sub-company one turn at a time.

Walls (but not towers) can be attacked with ladders – with die modifiers much favouring the defenders (eg. defenders +1 to hit, attackers at -1; attackers can only use hand weapons), and extra rules such as that the defenders count as being within the effect of an army standard and can re-roll break tests. More figures fight than in 6th ed – up to 9 attackers per section, up to 12 defenders (provided they have the numbers left to do so). It should be hard to take a castle wall!

Cannons pound the walls using the rules exactly as presented in 6th ed WFB. Once collapsed then walls simply become rocky ground, with the defenders counting as being behind a hard obstacle.

Siege towers are like 6th ed, but with more figures fighting as a modified version of building assault rules from 8th ed.
 
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#95
I hope you are enjoying the read Unas!
Immensely! :)

The political / religious intrigues for power are always interesting, and I especially like the little "side story" of the goblins about the rise of Slabdul. Realy nice how you (and your players?) have created a backstory for Mangler's death (which probably was only due to a bad roll from the player to see if the hero survived the battle).
Let alone the exchange about payment between mercs and dwarfs... xD

edit: oh, and i totally love that war engine! built that way is so Leonardo's style...
 
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#96
@ Unas: Mangler (an NPC hired by Razger Boulderguts, a PC) did survive the battle, and I (as GM) rolled a nasty injury on the recovery table - thus he needed time to recover.

Razger's player, however, wanted to ensure Mangler didn't recover, and so made a generous deal with Mangler's NPC butcher Slabdul to ensure he didn't. The player wanted to absorb Mangler's autonomous force into his own to have much better control of them - if they had left t go their own way he was a lot less likely to reach home what with only his own battered force. Also, Razger's player had retained their services by giving them 90% of the loot! If he could make himself their leader, he would get the loot back!

As GM I rolled a D6 to check for any opposition to this change of leadership by Mangler's boys and rolled high, so I decided Mangler's second in command, his army standard bearer Krav (an NPC Bruiser) would demand he took charge, as was his perceived right. The player decided Razger would challenge him and so we had them fight (dice rolls and everything) as if in a challenge on the field of battle. Razger the tyrant, unsurprisingly, won!

None of this was known to the other players, and would never have been known to anyone but me and the player. But my stories allow me to use such events as material, and so bring the story of the campaign even more alive.

This campaign is as much roleplaying as wargaming. There have been other duels such as this, like when the vampire duchess and Adolfo fought the vampire Theobald Hackspit and his own vampire hero servant at Pontremola, during an arranged meeting to discuss terms. The player then had to roll well to stop Hackspit's army crumbling to nothing so that the duchess could take control of those that didn't crumble and absorb them into her own army.
 
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#97
The Assault on Viadaza
Summer IC2403


Part Two

As the huge siege tower trundled on, the cultists to its left marched more speedily, soon catching up with it.

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In the centre of the field the generalis praepositus wasted no time in ordering his own regiment of cultists on, towards the gate and mob of stinking undead guards. As they moved their bell rang out, its sombre tone part and parcel of the practices they employed to bring on a furiously frenzied state of being.

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The city guard in the centre of the line stayed put for now, but on the right the large crowd of Urbimans advanced, with their lord riding up behind them.

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The crew on the cannone luminoso chose the regiment of skeletons to be their first target …

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… hoping to scorch right through the foe to bring down a whole file. By turning two geared, iron wheels, they rotated the screw-like shaft running the engine’s length, finely adjusting the distances dividing the giant lenses better to suit the range of their intended flash. Then the engineer opened the shutter of a leaden lantern containing the eerily glowing gem responsible for initiating the process. The loosed light projected out to reflect via two concave mirrors onto the first of the several linearly-placed lenses. The glass of each lens was fashioned from a potent combination of molten, fine, white sand and pounded warpstone, subsequently ground precisely into shape to ensure the light penetrating through each of them was not only concentrated but incrementally fed by the winds of magic, transforming from a ray of bright, hot light laced with raw magic into a beam of such heat as could turn a man to ash at a distance of hundreds of yards, and of such potent magical power as could instantly dissolve even the otherworldly forms of ethereal creatures.

A light now appeared in the rear-most, largest lens - that which the maestro da Leoni had called the ‘bonaventure lens’ - tinged blood red but piercingly bright at its core.

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The engine began to shake, its component parts clattering so much that the draught horses, selected specifically for their docility and ability to withstand the sounds of battle, began to buck and strain at their harnesses. The engineer, clutching the rattling railing which hemmed his platform, felt his stomach knot as he realised that this was going to be a more massive blast than any they had achieved in Remas during their practises. His rim of white hair suddenly stood on end, and he could hear a fizzing sort of sound accompanied by the distinctive smell of singed wool which presumably was coming from his own robes.

There was a sound akin to a giant intake of breath, and then a searing bolt was loosed through and from the machine which stretched right over to the skeletons, tearing apart an entire file of five into tiny fragments of scorched bone and dust. This was followed immediately by a loud cracking sound as the mizzen-lens (being the second last last) broke in two. All hint of the light instantly vanished, and for a moment the engine’s crew felt the breath sucked from their lungs.

[(Note: Luminark rules – an irresistibly cast bolt from a bound item breaks said item and makes it unusable for the rest of the game!)

Once they had recovered, and quite literally regained their breath, the engineer scrutinised the cracked lens. His shoulders slumped as he realised that what had just happened would be the engine’s only contribution to the battle. He caught himself just in time before taking Morr’s name in vain and began a prayer of cleansing to wash away any taint of his sinful intention.

The cannons, however, had much more luck. The first sent a ball right through the zombies, spattering five of them, then continued straight into the city’s gate, shattering the wood so badly that the hole thus made was sufficient even for men to enter (if a little uncomfortably). The second sent a shot smashing into the wall upon which the duchess herself was stood, shaking it somewhat. The three companies of crossbows took down several handfuls of zombies, skeletons and ghouls.

Upon the southernmost tower, Lord Adolfo scowled at the approaching siege tower. It had been fashioned somewhat simply of large planks, its only decorations being a huge painted cloth upon the front and a flag atop. Both these sported variations of the same design, an emblem Adolfo had seen previously in both life and undeath. It was one of the more popular symbols of Morr, consisting of an hourglass containing the sands of time, flanked by two raven wings.

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It was not trepidation he felt, nor anger, and certainly not fear, but rather impatience. He yearned to tear apart whoever lurked within the tower, to rend them limb from limb and bathe in their blood. And he wanted to do it now!

As the skeletons to the north of the city advanced, and the zombies shuffled a little forwards, the vampires and necromancer on the walls conjured what magic they could (Game note: magic dice 10:9 due to several dispel pool boosting artefacts in the Holiest Army) to resurrect several of the fallen zombies and skeletons. The duchess herself focused her hocus pocus on the Urbimans, conjuring Curse of Years upon them to kill nine immediately.

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Carradalio’s followers, itching to fight after many weeks of self-scourging, now thought it was the time to charge, but the siege tower failed to reach the walls, and the cultists failed to reach either the zombies or the skeletons. The exertions of their rapid march had obviously had an effect upon them, yet their failure did not diminish their desire to attack one jot. The army’s priests prayed to Morr to lift the curse upon the Urbimans …

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… which the god of death graciously granted, but otherwise the holy men could effect little else. Both cannons further shook the wall upon which the duchess stood (Game Note: now up to +3 on all future rolls on the damage chart) which at last made her wonder whether she ought to remain there, risking the ignominious fate of becoming buried in rubble.

The other vampire lord, Adolfo, was also (in his own way) in a thoughtful mood. So keen was his passion to slay the occupants of the approaching tower that he failed even register the large body of cultists advancing beside the tower, heading for the currently unguarded wall behind the tower.

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Once again crossbow bolts were loosed by the dozen, this time with arrows from the horse soldiers too, but these volleys caused only a peppering of casualties, insufficient in number for the vampires or necromancer to even notice.

The spirit hosts, being the bound souls of Viadaza’s most ancient warriors, now issued through the stone of the northern walls. Their ethereal forms seemed woven of shadows, the upper reaches of which were (impossibly) imbued with a greenish glow.

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The vampires employed a cursed book to wither the dedicants accompanying Carradalio and his admonitor, Brother Vincenzo, though to look at them you would barely have noticed the difference such was their fury and fervour for the fight.

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Necromantic magic summoned a body of zombies to threaten the flank of the Urbimans …

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.. then the vampires returned their attentions upon the weakened flagellants in the centre to lay low five of them with the Gaze of Nagash. Of course, none of this dampened the violent enthusiasm of the advancing army

End of turn 2
To continue asap.
 
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#98
Now the Holiest of armies launched several charges. In such close proximity to the foe, the dedicant crossbow could not restrain themselves and so charged into the newly raised zombies despite the entreaties of their shepherd to restrain themselves.

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Despite their small size their flagellations caused the death of four of their own number, and such was the fury this self-mutilation instilled that they tore down eight of the zombies with the further loss of only one more of their own. The remaining zombies all collapsed as the magic re-vivifying their rotting frames petered out.

(Note: As GM creating the Disciplinati di Morr house rules – modified Empire flagellant rules - I had forgotten to remove ‘The End is Nigh’ rule from their unit listing, which of course makes more sense with a missile unit. Who would create such a small sized missile unit if they were subject to that rule? It will probably be removed before the next conflict)

Gripped by a similar lust for battle, Father Carradalio and Brother Vincenzo jointly led their own regiment into the swollen mass of zombies before the gate.

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Carradalio personally cut down two of them, while his warriors slaughtered another thirteen. The still moving zombies reeled from the blow, unable to inflict any harm back, and fifteen more of them collapsed as they also succumbed to the effects of diminishing magic.

(Note: The Undead player realised at the end of the game that he should have put out only 30 of the zombies, but because the models were all magnetized to the movement base and he usually fielded 60 he accidentally fielded twice the size he should have. If that mistake had not occurred, the cultists would have destroyed the unit totally in this turn. There’s always a few mistakes creep in to battles, although they are mostly mine!)

On the left of the attackers’ line, the siege tower at last reached the tower and lowered its drawbridge, allowing the halberd-wielding cultists to pour forwards. Four of their own number perished to their frenzied flagellations, but the god Morr filled the rest with an overwhelming bloodlust as a consequence. They now cared not a jot for their own defence, only that they could rain blows down upon the foe.

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But the vampire Lord Adolfo was waiting for them, and they now discovered just what such a creature was capable of.

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Eight of the cultists died from his attentions (Game note: Strigoi ghoul king with Sword of Bloodshed and vampiric Red Fury). The ghouls on the tower with Adolfo butchered three more of the cultists, while eight of their own number died. The Disciplinati di Morr dedicants had failed to take the wall-tower, losing both the initial impetus of their attack and also their frenzied mania. They would not break and run, determined as they were to die to a man in Morr’s service. That did not mean that they would win, only that if they lost none would be left alive.

One of the dedicants climbing the ladders to reach the fighting platform, whilst corpse after corpse tumbled down from the mayhem above, glanced over to the regiment making for the neighbouring wall. In a sickening moment of clarity it occurred to him that unless the others ascended the wall almost immediately, attacking whatever was defending the tower immediately, then his own regiment would perish to a man before they even got into the fight. Not that he was afraid of death, for he was blessed by Morr, just that he realised that if the others were too late, then whatever was killing his own comrades so quickly would simply turn on them to do the same. And then neither wall nor tower would be taken. For a moment he felt a pang of despair, but he brushed the feeling away with an angry shout and continued his climb.

While these fights broiled, the priests managed to dispel the withering curse affecting the Urbimans. One cannon again shook the wall violently (yet it still did not fall) but the other failed even to shoot, and the hail of crossbow bolts shot up at the walls did little more than clatter and clunk against the stones.

The skeletons to the north of the walls chose not to wait for the enemy and hurled themselves into the horde of Urbimans before them.

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The ancient, undead warriors brought down three of the dedicants, merely matching the harm the dedicants own scourging had caused to themselves. Such was their frenzy that the Urbimans failed to notice and cut down a dozen skeletons.

Near the now open gate Father Carradalio’s sword continued its bloody work, hewing apart another pair of zombies. These two truly dead corpses were joined by eighteen more. Only four of the dedicants perished, three by their own flails! The last half dozen zombies fell as all vestiges of the magic animating them vanished. The way to the gate was clear.

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The Necromancer upon the tower now read from his book, conjuring a curse which sapped the strength of the dedicants upon the siege-tower, so that some even struggled to ascend the ladders. This did not help their fight. Three died from their own flagellations, eight more from Adolfo’s attentions and a further two perished at the hands of the ghouls. What few were left fought on (Note: Unbreakable) but more of them were coming to the realisation that the regiment approaching the wall with ladders was not going to make it in time to save their complete obliteration, and that this would probably mean that regiment would be destroyed in turn.

The Duchess Maria finally decided to quit the unstable wall and join her Black Knights in the yard below.

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She commanded them to move forwards a little towards the gate, for she intended to charge whatever came through it.

End Turn 3
 
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#99
Final Part of the The Assault on Viadaza

Just as Father Carradalio was about to order his regiment to charge through the broken gate, Brother Vincenzo shouted, “No, Father! They are waiting in strength.” He had seen the undead horse soldiers massed within and knew that if any who entered there would likely be cut down to a man.

Father Carradalio nodded, then pointed at the wall by the gate, commanding, “Ladders. Up!” at which the dedicants rushed to place the ladders and begin their climb.

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What resulted was short, but bloody, work, even though neither the priests’ prayers nor Brother Vincenzo’s holy, burning water harmed the foe. Four dedicants collapsed from their own self-punishment, and another four were slain by the ghouls upon the parapet, but Carradalio beheaded two of the foe, Vincenzo another and the dedicants smashed five skulls. The few ghouls left scuttled away and with a leap Carradalio and the first of his dedicants were on the wall.

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Note: See Appendix below for actual ‘in game’ version of this moment!

The climb was considerably easier for the cultists at the southern wall. As they clambered over …

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… they did not yet know that the vampire Lord Adolfo and his ghouls had already defeated the dedicants on the siege tower. All forty were either dead or maimed so badly they could no longer fight (many wounded by their own hands).

Outside the walls the crossbow carrying cultists charged into the flank of the much diminished regiment of skeletons …

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… and between them and the Urbimans they cut every last one down. The crossbowmen, realising that the spirit hosts were behind them, moved over the bony remnants to put a better distance between them and a foe they could not hope to harm, while the Urbimans reformed themselves as they realised they could become the spirit hosts’ chosen target.

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Behind the Urbimans, the torch-wielding dedicants of the praepositus generalis’ bodyguard manoeuvred as best they could, frustrated in their efforts, knowing that their blessed, burning torches could easily dispatch the spirits if only they could get to them.

(Game note: Home rule - Blessed Torch Flames. Flaming, close combat attacks. Cause Fear in war-beasts, cavalry & chariots. Affect Flammable (p.69 BRB) & Regeneration (p.74 BRB) abilities. Able to wound ethereal creatures.)

While one cannon was being made ready again after its earlier misfire, the other cannon sent a shot that brought down the parapet of the wall where until moments before the duchess had been standing. Four of the grave guard became buried in the rubble, and three more succumbed to the crossbow bolts and light horsemen’s arrows which found their marks much more easily now that there was no wall in the way. The rest of the guards simply stood as they were, entirely bereft of any trepidation concerning whether the wall was about to collapse fully.

At the very moment the leading dedicants upon the captured, southern wall turned towards the door into the tower, it burst open with such force as to rip it off its hinges, and Lord Adolfo, filled with a furious rage, leaped out to tear into them.

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He was followed by his ghouls and the fight that ensued was even bloodier than the previous. Adolfo alone killed eleven cultists, while the ghouls cut down another nine. What with another cultist perishing from his own self scourging, it all added up to twenty dead cultists, while only seven of the ghouls had been killed. Of course, the dedicants of the Disciplinati di Morr fought on, more and more clambering over the parapet to die almost instantly, even though none now harboured any hope that they might survive.

Father Carradalio, however, and what few warriors were left to his regiment, were doing better, losing only five of their number whilst killing nearly twice as many ghouls. Such was the weakening of the necromantic forces binding the ghouls, that the necromancer with them now succumbed to true death, along with the one or two ghouls remaining.

Just before entering the round tower beside him, Carradalio looked down into the city and his eyes locked with his greatest enemy, the vampire duchess herself.

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She was sitting side-saddle upon her red-barded steed, looking deceptively delicate in her posture, but there was nothing but pure evil in her eyes. Carradalio smiled, such was his joy at leading his holy warriors into battle, knowing that Morr was by his side. The duchess snarled and watched through narrowed eyes as the priest stepped through the door out of her sight. He had but three warriors left with him, and his admonitor Brother Vincenzo, yet he still had confidence that victory would be his. Captain Vogel’s elite palace guard were approaching the gate with the Urbiman priest amongst them. The cannons were still booming and every undead warrior outside the city had been killed.

What he did not know, until he got to the top of the tower, was that Adolfo had now slain the entire second regiment of dedicants attacking the southern wall. With a little help from his ghouls (and the enemy themselves) he had obliterated 70 dedicants. All the while he had been reanimating his fallen soldiers so that when he left the wall and hurtled down the street immediately behind, heading towards the duchess, he still had ten ghouls with him.

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The spirit hosts passed back through the city walls, intending to attack whatever force attempted to climb the northern wall even as it did so. The duchess now decided that her black knights could surely deal with whatever came through the gate on their own, so she leaped from her mount and made her way into the round tower immediately north of the gate, with a mind to fight her way through whomsoever got in her way and kill the laughing priest. Before she could reach the wall on the southern side of the gate, however, Captain Vogel and the palace guard employed the same ladders Carradalio and the cultists had used to ascend the wall also.

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Meanwhile Father Carradalio had reached the round tower’s top …

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… and peered over to spy Adolfo loping down the street below. (Game Note: Magic pools 7:4) Feeling Morr’s wrath flow through him, he cast Morr’s Curse upon the vampire (-1S, -1T, -1Ld) followed by Morr’s Glare (on 6,6,6,5!!!), which stung so badly that Adolfo stumbled and almost fell (He had lost 2 of 3 wounds!)

The battered wall occupied by grave guard had been hit several more times and was now on the verge of complete collapse – a man leaning up on it might cause it to topple. Several more skeletons had been killed by crossbow bolts, and the rest of the Holiest Army’s regiments had moved closer to the walls. The Urbimans and a company of crossbowmen were ready to attempt charges to capture more of the walls.

The Duchess Maria had sensed her servant’s anguish at the stinging power of the enemy’s prayers, and it suddenly dawned on her that if she and Adolfo attacked the walls and the tower they could almost certainly cut down all opposition and most likely even the two priests of Morr, but there was a small but real chance she could fail. Adolfo had been weakened and if only one Morrite survived that might be sufficient to finish him. She knew not what other tricks these priests had up their sleeves.

The wall behind her was about to collapse, and Morrites were closing in to capture several other sections. She had sent most of her army’s fighting strength away with Biagino, and this guard force she had kept here in Viadaza had proved too weak (if only just) to defend against these cultists. The enemy’s dead were piled high, yet still they came on in frenzied fury - fearing neither death nor undeath, and they fought to the last. If but one remained he would run at her, not away.

Maria loved her undeath, so much she wanted it to last forever. This would not happen if she took needless risks. She made her decision quickly and gave the command immediately.

“Leave!”

All her servants heard her, for they were beholden to her will, and could sense her very thoughts. The Black Knights galloped down the high street from the Eastgate …

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… while Adolfo led his ghouls down another parallel street – in fact, it was the very same street he had fled down the previous year when the Arch-Lector of Remas had attacked Viadaza. The irony was lost on him.

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The rest of her army, the duchess included, slipped away through interconnected cellars and attics, crossing vestibules and arches, down passages and alleyways, towards the waterfront where boats awaited them.

Once again, the undead had yielded Viadaza to a Reman led army. But the duchess was far from defeated, merely inconvenienced. She would raise more servants wheresoever she went and destroy this foe in her own good time.

Their losses in this battle would be much, much harder to replace.

Game Over. End of turn 6 (Turn 7 conceded)

Game notes:

Victory
The Duchess’s player, Daz, had already lost a PC (the vampire Duke of Miragliano) much earlier in the campaign, and he went through several seasons of difficulties and struggles to gain control of the realm and its armies for his new character, the duchess. He was not willing to take the risk, and decided to do the cool-headed, strategic thing and get away alive. Well … undead, anyway! I told him I thought the duchess or Adolfo would most likely kill Father Carradalio (another player’s PC, although that player lives so far away he has volunteer susbtiture players commanding his army on the field) if they went for it. But he knew there was a chance the duchess might perish, or Adolfo, and that even if they didn’t, then by the victory conditions he could still lose the battle, which could mean much greater ignominy (maybe even capture, which would of course mean death!) That’s why Daz decided in turn 6b to ‘get out of there!’

Dispel dice
The Luminark channelled an extra dispel die, as did the magical finger bone carried by the Urbiman priest, which meant, along with just one 6 rolled by the three priests, on several turns the Holiest Army had +3 dispel dice!

Casualties
As the Holiest Army had won their casualty recovery was as good as the rules allow. 1/3 of all destroyed units’ models are recovered, and half of any models lost to units remaining on the field. After applying the recovery rules, they went from 170 flagellant cultists to 109. If they had lost, they would have been almost obliterated. As it is they can still field a good fighting force, perhaps organising the cultists into two 40 strong hordes and a couple of smaller companies (the torch wielding bodyguard and a crossbow company?) They still have the Luminark, or ‘cannone luminosa’, and I reckon I can allow them to have a spare lens tucked away in the baggage for repairs. They have cannons, and mercenaries, and light horse. Father Carradalio still has an army. I’ll have to remove ‘The End is Nigh’ rule from the companies of crossbow and bodyguard because, basically, it is a SILLY rule for such small units.

Strange photographs
The picture of Carradalio on the wall was posed after the battle, and actually shows (for artistic effect – forgive me!) more men than he really had. He was in truth down to three cultists and Vincenzo. Here’s the original ‘in game’ photograph showing the moment Carradalio climbed onto the wall …

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I had already added the sky and begun editing out the models’ bases but then two things occurred to me …

1. I didn’t like how out of focus the pic was. I don’t really have time to check the quality whilst refereeing the game and had forgotten to take several pics (my usual technique for important moments).

2. How the heck did the standard bearer locked into a pillory manage to climb a ladder and get over the wall? Frenzy sure makes men do some crazy things, but surely not the impossible?



Now, I have painting to do for the next battle – new figures and scenery and modifying old figures. I have two players arranged, just need a third for an NPC force. Game in two weeks! I also have my GM duties re: the aftermath of this battle, and other unfolding events. Good job I love this hobby!
 
Joined
Jan 1, 2017
Messages
461
What a ride!
in the last days i restrained myself from reading, due to lack of time and the fact that i wanted to read the whole battle without having to interrupt the narration.

I'm happy for the victory of the morrite army, a loss would have put Reman in a very bad shape. Great, wonderful battle, really thanks for sharing the Whole campaign.

On a final note, I agree with you that you can let them repair the luminark, a sort of compensation for the fight with a much larger number of zombies in front of the gate!
 
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